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Viacom CEO: We are “not looking to create another Netflix”

Viacom boss Bob Bakish has swatted away plans for a Netflix-style platform, while highlighting the business’ production strategy and calling for stronger regulation of SVOD platforms.

Speaking at the Royal Television Society (RTS) London conference on Tuesday (18 September), Bakish, who took the reins at Viacom in 2016, highlighted that he is “not looking to create another Netflix” because “that space is becoming crowded and capital intensive.”

Instead, Viacom will pursue more streamlined and “alternative” direct-to-consumer offerings such as pre-school offering and “niche product” Noggin.

“We see other products that can work in different demographics. We also see the potential to apply an ad-supported front door to that,” he said.

Bakish also highlighted Viacom’s studio production business – which makes Netflix original 13 Reasons Why and Amazon Prime Video’s John Krasinski-fronted Jack Ryan series – noting that the business will double down on its production efforts around the world.

He said that MTV Studios – one of the first in-house productions arms to sit within Viacom’s new studio model – is currently making a reality programme for one of the FAANG players, though he would not specific which platform.

“On one hand, new entrants are taking consumers’ time, but on the other hand, we are finding great opportunity in supplying them,” he said.

He said Viacom will look to “leverage its international assets” – namely production assets in the UK and Argentina, where the business purchased channel Telefe for $345m in 2016.

TBI understands that Viacom is currently looking to invest in more UK production companies.

It currently owns Channel 5’s in-house production arm Elephant House Studios, but is believed to be on the look-out for more indies.

Bakish, who was interviewed by Channel 5 News presenter Sian Williams, also highlighted a double standard around regulation for SVODs and traditional broadcasters.

He noted that while Viacom is not able to advertise certain products on its youth channel Nickelodeon, there is “no such regulation” for SVODs.

“It is clear that over time we will get regulation. The world needs to move in that direction as responsibility follows consumption,” he said.

Bakish could not be drawn on the CBS-Viacom merger, saying only that the business can grow in a number of ways and achieve “virtual scale” without consolidating.

“Where I sit today, there is a clear path to valuation ahead of us,” he said.