Saturday, 24 August, 2019

CBS and Viacom agree to sign $30 billion merger deal

CBS Viacom agree to merge in all-stock deal The Viacom office is seen in Hollywood Los AngelesMore
Lora Ball | 14 August, 2019, 03:09

Reunited and it feels so good: CBS and Viacom, two companies which were once joined but have spent almost thirteen years operating as separate entities, are now merging once again.

Mr Redstone broke up CBS and Viacom 14 years ago. That values Viacom at slightly less than $12 billion.

Yet the bigger company still might not be big enough to be competitive, as larger rival Disney launches its own service in November and streaming pioneer Netflix spends even more on original shows and movies.

It will combine the CBS television network, CBS News, Showtime cable networks with MTV Networks, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and the Paramount movie studios.

Viacom also nixed plans to merge with CBS in 2016. One news outlet described management's vision as "a blockbuster. move which is created to bring the network of Dan Rather in touch with the MTV generation". By combining, the companies say they will save $500 million a year. They've lost about 18% since the beginning of 2018, as the broadcaster faced mounting challenges, including the ongoing competition for viewers with the likes of Netflix Inc. and the ouster of longtime CEO Les Moonves.

Redstone will be chairwoman of the combined company's board. To expand its library, Disney bought Fox's entertainment businesses for $71 billion in March, while DirecTV owner AT&T bought Time Warner past year for $81 billion. US cable conglomerate Comcast bought a majority of European pay-TV operator Sky News in October for $40 billion.

The companies said they expect the deal, which still needs to win regulatory approval and clear other conditions, will close by the end of this year.

"Right now there's a major transition going on regarding the consumption of TV - people are moving away from the traditional bundle to direct-to-consumer, on-demand shows or combinations of both", said Neil Begley, an analyst at Moody's.

He said a big question will be whether the new company will focus on subscription offerings, such as CBS All Access and Showtime, or free, ad-supported ones, like the Viacom-owned Pluto TV.

CBS stock climbed 1.3% to $48.63 as of 3:27 p.m. on Tuesday, with Class B shares of Viacom rising 1.7% to $29.01.

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If you work in this industry long enough, you'll see how cyclical it can be. Disney's is almost $245 billion and Netflix is at $136 billion.

Shari Redstone, who controls both CBS and Viacom along with her father through National Amusements Inc., is positioned to become chairman of the board for the combined companies.

Sumner Redstone split CBS from Viacom in January 2006 in the belief it would unshackle the more profitable entertainment vehicle Viacom from the lagging, old school network television divisions of CBS.

"Our unique ability to produce premium and polar content for global audiences at scale - for our platforms and for our partners around the world - will enable us to maximize our business for today, while positioning us to lead for tomorrow", Bakish said in a statement.

The companies have sought a merger several times in recent years, but their management teams' differences were never bridged.

CBS and Viacom have ties that go back to the 1970s. The changes paved the way for Tuesday's announcement.

The new company will be named ViacomCBS Inc despite the fact that CBS shareholders will own 61% and Viacom shareholders will own 39%.

The deal represents a victory for Shari Redstone, president of National Amusement, after three attempts since 2016. The deal would close by December 31, pending any regulator approvals.

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, who will become CEO of the combined company, said the new ViacomCBS will be "one of only a few companies with the breadth and depth of content and reach to shape the future of our industry".

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