The on again/off again plan to reunite CBS and Viacom (parent company of Paramount Pictures) appears to be back in motion with new reports that CBS is planning to acquire Viacom, which would once again bring Star Trek under a single corporate owner.
CBS talking merger, again
Earlier this year we reported how the hunt for a permanent replacement for Les Moonves as CEO of CBS was being linked as a precursor to the possibility of CBS and Viacom re-merging. That hunt for a new CEO has been put on hold as CBS announced this week they have extended Joseph Ianniello’s role as acting CEO until the end of the year, which increased industry buzz that the merger was now taking precedent.
As noted by Bloomberg, the extending of Ianniello’s role “sends a strong signal that CBS is prepared to merge with Viacom.” Following the announcement, Variety NBC, and Fox Business are reporting that the CBS board has initiated new internal discussions with an eye towards making an offer to acquire Viacom. In 2018 the companies actually got further along in the process but it ended without a deal and a bitter court fight that concluded last September. However, the main opponent to the re-merger was former CEO Leslie Moonves along with some of his allies on the board who have since been replaced by Shari Redstone (who owns a controlling stake in both corporations and is the main proponent of the merger).
Merger could help fight the streaming wars
In recent months, calls for a re-merger have increased. One of the factors seen as a benefit is to better position CBS for the “streaming wars.” As noted by market analyst Scott Pery at Seeking Alpha: “With Disney, Warner Media, and NBC Universal all planning on rolling out streaming services in the near future, the time is now for CBS to greatly enhance its streaming service by combining with Viacom.” A Bloomberg opinion piece adds: “CBS has been building an audience for its CBS All Access and Showtime apps, and Viacom recently bought the free Pluto TV platform. But most important, together they’d have more scale, which not only helps them get by in a land of giants — Walt Disney Co., AT&T Inc., Apple Inc., Amazon.com Inc. — it also may make them a more palatable takeover candidate.”
A Star Trek cinematic universe?
A merger would once again bring all of Star Trek back under one corporate umbrella, as Paramount Pictures still owns the Star Trek film library and rights to make Trek feature films. As noted above, it could also change the nature of CBS All Access, which is the primary home of Star Trek TV, with CBS developing a number of shows to expand the franchise beyond the anchor show Star Trek: Discovery.
With things stalled on the film side and with J.J. Abrams’ deal with Paramount ending in 2020, a likely result of a re-merger would be to bring all of Star Trek under the management of Alex Kurtzman’s Secret Hideout Productions. TrekMovie talked to Kurtzman and his Secret Hideout partner Heather Kadin about the possibility of a merger last year and Kurtzman said he has not had any conversations about taking on the Trek films, but he had some opinions on the future of the franchise on the big screen, saying he would “approach it more from the point of view of what kinds of stories can’t we tell on television that are better for the screen.” Kadin also noted that it would be ideal “to have everything play in the same universe.”
This is developing story and TrekMovie will provide any updates when there is more re-merger news.