CBS and Viacom are finally, really, back to together. Less than four months after announcing their intentions to rejoin as one company, the companies closed their merger on Wednesday, beginning the new ViacomCBS era.
The merger took effect following the closing bell on Wednesday. ViacomCBS Inc. will begin trading on the Nasdaq on Thursday under ticker symbols VIACA and VIAC. The move puts the CBS broadcast network, Viacom’s stable of cable channels like MTV and Nickelodeon, and the Paramount film and TV studio under one roof.
The two companies agreed in August to an all-stock deal that valued Viacom at roughly $12 billion. CBS shareholders will own approximately 61% and Viacom shareholders will own approximately 39% of the new company. In making the announcement, ViacomCBS touted an annual revenue of $28 billion.
Bob Bakish will be president and chief executive officer of the combined company, which has been moving executives in, out and around in preparation for the recombination. Joe Ianniello, who had been serving as acting president and CEO since late 2018, will be chairman and CEO of CBS, putting him in charge of all CBS-branded assets.
“This is a historic moment that brings together two iconic companies to form one of the world’s most important content producers and providers,” said Bakish. “Through the combination of CBS’s and Viacom’s complementary assets, capabilities and talented teams, ViacomCBS will create and deliver premium content for its own platforms and for others, while providing innovative solutions for advertisers and distributors globally. I am excited about the opportunity we have to serve our audiences, creative and commercial partners, and employees, while generating significant long-term value for our shareholders.”
Shari Redstone, president of National Amusements Inc., which is the controlling stakeholder for both companies, will serve as chairman of the board of ViacomCBS. The 13-person board will consist of six members from CBS board, four from Viacom and two from National Amusements. Bakish, as CEO of ViacomCBS, will be on the board as well.
Kent Alterman, longtime head of Comedy Central, will be exiting as part of recent leadership changes. His network will be overseen by Chris McCarthy, who will become president of entertainment and youth brands, adding TV Land, Paramount Network and Smithsonian Channel to his portfolio. McCarthy already oversees MTV, VH1, CMT and Logo and will report to Bakish.
Viacom Media Networks COO Sarah Levy is also leaving.
CBS chief creative officer David Nevins will oversee Viacom’s BET Networks in addition to CBS and Showtime, Viacom and CBS said on Monday. Marc DeBevoise, CEO of CBS Interactive, will oversee digital operations for both CBS and Viacom. CBS Television Studios and Paramount Television will continue to operate independently after the merger closes in early December.
Additionally, Nickelodeon President Brian Robbins will add Awesomeness to his oversight. Robbins cofounded the multi-platform media company back in 2012.
Jo Ann Ross will oversee ad sales at ViacomCBS.
The combined entity is projecting $500 million in synergy savings within two years through the elimination of overlapping corporate operations and other savings.
The media industry is in a far different place since the last time CBS and Viacom were corporate siblings 13 years ago.
The industry has become all about scale. Disney finished off its $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox’s TV and film assets in March, and last year AT&T acquired Time Warner, and turned into WarnerMedia, aligning its entertainment assets — HBO, Turner, Warner Bros. — closer together. Earlier this year Viacom bought the ad-supported free streaming service Pluto TV, which has shown early success with monthly active users increasing 50% since December and reaching 18 million users in August.
Tech giants like Netflix and, to a lesser extent, Amazon, have upended the entertainment industry, luring in high priced talent and taking advantage of shifting consumer behavior that has moved away from live television. Last month, both Apple and Disney launched their own direct-to-consumer offerings, with WarnerMedia and Comcast coming next spring. But ViacomCBS is taking a different route, believing it can be both a buyer and a seller.
The two companies split from each other in 2006. CBS and Viacom walked away from a merger last year amid a legal tug of war between former CEO Leslie Moonves and Redstone, who has long had her eye on reuniting the two companies but had received pushback over Viacom’s poor performance.
It’s been a long time coming for the two former-sister companies to get back together.