Viacom May Re-Merge with CBS

by Paige Albiniak  |  08.29.2016

One option still in play at Viacom — which is sorting itself out after a nasty boardroom battle that saw CEO Philippe Dauman depart — is re-merging with CBS, which Viacom bought in 2000 and then spun off in 2006. At the time, the split was supposed to uncouple Viacom from its slower-growth broadcast sibling, but cord-cutting and streaming on-demand services have suddenly made the basic-cable business very tough.

RELATED: Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman to Depart Sept. 13

Should a merger happen, it puts into a play a constant rumor that CBS CEO Leslie Moonves would add oversight of Viacom to his portfolio. With Dauman’s departure after a prolonged fight with Shari Redstone, Viacom COO Tom Dooley has stepped into the interim CEO position, but many don’t think Dooley will end up the long-term leader of the challenged media conglomerate. Viacom owns such cable networks as Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, MTV and VH1 as well as Paramount Pictures.

“Shari [Redstone] has done a masterful job re-asserting herself at Viacom,” Paul Sweeney, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst, told Bloomberg News. “Les’s main strength is programming. Viacom is in dire need of improved programming at both its cable networks and its Paramount film studio.”

Neither Moonves nor Viacom commented on the record for the story.

With Moonves at CBS’ helm, the broadcast network has remained the country’s most-watched for 13 of the last 14 years, beating even Fox in total viewers its American Idol heyday. Showtime, grouped with CBS, also has grown with such programs as Homeland, Ray Donovan and Masters of Sex.

Viacom, meanwhile, has struggled as ratings at its cable networks have plunged. Viacom’s stock price, which was up a bit on Monday to $41.45 per share, has declined 45 percent over the past two years.

One example of the difficulties the company faces comes in the form of ratings for Sunday night’s MTV Video Music Awards: the show, — which featured performances from Beyoncé, Rihanna and Britney Spears — fell 34 percent in linear network ratings to 6.5 million total viewers across 11 Viacom networks. That said, streaming consumption of the show was up 71 percent, with 62.8 million streaming the show versus 36.8 million in 2015.

READ MORE: Bloomberg

[Image of Shari Redstone courtesy of Drew Angerer/Getty Images via Bloomberg]

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