Television Business International

Bakish: Comedy Central, Paramount are priorities

Bob Bakish has said Viacom must focus on expanding the international reach of the Comedy Central and Paramount Channel brands.

Bob Bakish1Bakish is replacing Tom Dooley as interim president and CEO of Viacom on Tuesday (November 15).

He is tasked with providing strategy for the company as it explores merger possibilities with CBS Corp., which shares the same parent company, National Amusements. On an investor call, he said his instructions were to “maximise Viacom’s potential as an independent company”.

Bakish, who has also been named permanent president and CEO of the new Viacom Global Entertainment Group unit, added strengthening channel brands across the company suite was vital.

“Rather than launching additional US brands internationally we focus on international core six: MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Comedy Central, Paramount Channel and Spike,” he said. “We’re investing to grow these brands while maintaining a lean, powerful portfolio that will be attractive to both pay-TV and emerging distributors, particularly virtual MVPDs.

“Within that footprint we have plenty of room to grow – Comedy Central and Paramount Channel remain far less penetrated then MTV. In 2017 we already have launches planned in central and eastern Europe, the Middle East, Russia, Benelux, Asia and more.”

VGEG now houses the domestic Viacom channels business, which has seen Comedy Central and MTV struggle with ratings and subsequently change management, and the overseas unit Bakish previously led, Viacom International Media Networks.

Bakish was handed his new role in part to secure his services should Viacom and CBS ultimately reunite, having previously operated as one company between 1999 and 2006.

CBS executive chairman and CEO Les Moonves is expected to lead a merged company. However, last week he told investors he would only approve a combined company “if it is in the best interests of CBS and all of its shareholders”.