US media companies CBS and Viacom announced a merger on Tuesday in a bid to strengthen their position as they take on Netflix’s streaming insurgency and face up to the loss of “cord-cutter” viewers.
The deal, which will reunify the pair after more than a decade apart and create a new company worth about $30bn, combines Viacom’s MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and the Paramount film and TV studio with CBS’s broadcast network and its Showtime subscription channel.
The deal marks a victory for Shari Redstone – the daughter of media mogul Sumner Redstone, who split up CBS and Viacom in 2006 – and establishes her as a major force in male-dominated Hollywood. Redstone had pushed for the merger for some years, and is expected to be named as the new company’s chairwoman of the board, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Shari Redstone, the president of National Amusements, the Redstone family holding company that controls CBS and Viacom, said: “I am really excited to see these two great companies come together so that they can realize the incredible power of their combined assets. My father once said ‘content is king’ – and never has that been more true than today.”
Compared to Disney, which recently bought Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox assets and is soon to launch a streaming service, Disney+, and Netflix, with 151 million global subscribers, CBSViacom will still be a relatively small player. Despite that, the combined company is expected to enjoy greater leverage with advertisers and cable providers.
“This comes down, in my view, to what are management’s ambitions for the future,” analyst Michael Nathanson told the Journal on Monday.
“They have enough, together, to maintain CBS’s ambitions of reaching 25 million direct-to-consumer subscribers by 2022. If they have a greater goal than that, then they probably do need to keep rolling up other assets.”