CBS, Viacom conclude long-awaited merger

L-R: Shari Redstone, Bob Bakish, Joe Ianniello

CBS and Viacom have agreed a long-awaited merger deal that will see the two businesses operate as ViacomCBS Inc. moving forward.

The deal comes after months of speculation around a merger – the third such attempt since 2016, when a reunification of the two businesses was first explored.

New leadership has been set out, with Viacom boss Bob Bakish leading the merged entity, and CBS’s acting CEO Joe Ianniello becoming chairman-CEO of CBS and leading on the CBS brands.

Both Viacom and CBS are owned by the Redstone family’s National Amusements, which owns close to 80% of voting shares for both companies.

The deal was approved by the boards of directors of both CBS and Viacom by a unanimous vote. CBS shareholders will own around 61% of the combined company, while Viacom shareholders will take 39%.

The stock exchange ratio – the final stumbling block in the days leading up to the deal – has been set at 0.59625 CBS shares for each share of Viacom.

The transaction is subject to regulatory approval, but is expected to close by the end of this calendar year.

Our unique ability to produce premium and popular content for global audiences at scale – for our own platforms and for our partners around the world – will enable us to maximize our business for today, while positioning us to lead for years to come.

-Bob Bakish

Merger rationale

ViacomCBS will unite brands including CBS, Showtime, Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central and Paramount Network. The library covers around 140,000-plus TV episodes and 3,600-plus film titles.

The combined company will also have more than 750 series currently ordered to or in production. In terms of content spend, CBS and Viacom have collectively spent more than $13bn in the last 12 months.

ViacomCBS reach more than 4.3bn TV subscribers around the world.

The business has said it plans to accelerate its direct-to-consumer strategy. ViacomCBS has a number of top platforms under its purview, including CBS’s successful catch-up service and SVOD CBS All Access, as well as newly acquired AVOD platform Pluto TV, along with niche products such as CBSN, ET Live and Noggin.

The business says it now “has an opportunity to expand globally by leveraging its existing strength in both subscription and ad-supported offerings, combined library, content production capabilities and international infrastructure.”

Bakish said: “Today marks an important day for CBS and Viacom, as we unite our complementary assets and capabilities and become one of only a few companies with the breadth and depth of content and reach to shape the future of our industry. Our unique ability to produce premium and popular content for global audiences at scale – for our own platforms and for our partners around the world – will enable us to maximize our business for today, while positioning us to lead for years to come.

“As we look to the future, I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities ahead for the combined company and all of our stakeholders – including consumers, the creative community, commercial partners, employees and, of course, our shareholders.”

Shari Redstone, vice chair of the boards of directors for CBS and Viacom, added: “I am really excited to see these two great companies come together so that they can realise the incredible power of their combined assets. My father once said ‘content is king,’ and never has that been more true than today. Through CBS and Viacom’s shared passion for premium content and innovation, we will establish a world-class, multiplatform media organization that is well-positioned for growth in a rapidly transforming industry.

“Led by a talented leadership team that is excited by the future, ViacomCBS’s success will be underpinned by a commitment to strong values and a culture that empowers our exceptional people at all levels of the organization.”

Ianniello added: “This merger brings an exciting new set of opportunities to both companies. At CBS, we have outstanding momentum right now – creatively and operationally – and Viacom’s portfolio will help accelerate that progress. I look forward to all we will do together as we build on our ongoing success. And personally, I am pleased to remain focused on CBS’s top priority – continuing our transformation into a global, multiplatform, premium content company.”

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