CBS-Viacom Set Informal Deadline for Potential Merger (Report)

Both companies report earnings on Aug. 8, making it a natural date for a deal announcement

cbs viacom joseph ianniello bob bakish
CBS; GEtty Images

CBS and Viacom have set an internal deadline to come to an agreement on the long-awaited merger between the two companies, according to a report from CNBC.

The financial news outlet reported on Monday that both companies have informally circled Aug. 8 as a natural date for a merger to be consummated. An individual with knowledge of the discussions characterized it as a natural target as opposed to a hard deadline, since both companies are scheduled to report their second-quarter earnings that day.

Both Viacom and CBS declined to comment.

The two companies are keeping price out of the discussion for now, CNBC reported, until all strategic and management issues are resolved first. Viacom CEO Bob Bakish has been seen as the likely person to get the top executive spot, with acting CEO Joe Ianniello’s future unclear. Ianniello, who stepped in after former CEO Leslie Moonves resigned after multiple sexual misconduct accusations last fall, recently had his contract extended until December and CBS decided to call off a search for a permanent CEO.

It’s been a long time coming for the two former-sister companies to get back together.

CBS and Viacom walked away from a merger last year amid a legal tug of war between Moonves and Shari Redstone, who runs CBS’ controlling stakeholder National Amusements. Redstone has long had her eye on reuniting the two companies, but had received pushback over Viacom’s poor performance.

But the company is in a much better place this time around. Earlier this year Viacom bought the ad-supported free streaming service Pluto TV, which has shown early success with monthly active users increasing 31% since December and reaching 16 million users in April. Over the last two quarters Viacom has reported year-over-year growth and exceeded analyst forecasts.

Bakish, who took over Viacom in October 2016, spoke about the company’s turnaround during an event at the Paley Center last week in Los Angeles.

“We really have not only stabilized, but revitalized the company,” Bakish said at the event. “We’ll see what happens, but the opportunity that’s afforded in today’s landscape continues to be very good for Viacom.”

Since last summer, the industry has bulked up, with Disney finishing off its $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox’s TV and film assets and AT&T turning Time Warner into WarnerMedia and aligning its entertainment assets — HBO, Turner, Warner Bros. — closer together.