Reports: CBS And Viacom Moving Towards Merger Talks, Again

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main opponent to the re-merger was former CEO Leslie Moonves along with some of his allies on the board who have since been replaced by Shari Redstone (who owns a controlling stake in both corporations and is the main proponent of the merger).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 merger with Viacom could have a big impact with CBS All Access

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.

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Scott Gammans

If you ever want to see Star Trek on the silver screen again, this merger is probably the best path to that end.

For me personally, I think Trek thrives more on the small screen, but I wouldn’t mind seeing one more adventure with Chris Pine & company, or perhaps the oft-rumored Tarantino film. So, I’m rooting for this (re)merger to happen.

Joe

I second that

Jay

Yes. Totally agree.

Tek

As much as I love the movies overall…if there is compelling trek on TV with cinematic quality shows in my 55” 4K HDR TV (with surround sound!) I’m happy.

Just Another Salt Vampire

It will be interesting to see if anything comes of the Tarantino project. The JJ Abrams Kelvin universe seems to have slipped into quiet oblivion, unless there is something going on that they have been extremely good at concealing.

The Tarentino project is dead, too.

TG47

I’m still not getting the appeal of a Tarantino project besides people thinking he might make a popular film that happens to have Trek in its name.

I’ve watched his films, but I don’t think they have any viable intersection with positive Trek values that are central to the franchise. More, when he’s had a guest producer or director role in TV series, I haven’t liked to direction he’s taken things.

I’d be more curious to see what Guillermo del Toro would do with Trek frankly.

Alec Grimes

He may just surprise all of us.

If there is anyone I’d like to see give Trek a spin, it’s del Toro.

Captain Braxton

Fingers crossed 🤞🏻

(Although, as a time traveller, I know it all works out and the franchise is reunified. Creating a new TREK golden age)

tacotuesday

You’re clearly suffering from temporal psychosis.

VZX

A couple of questions:

Why was Moonves against CBS merging with Viacom? Would it decrease his bonus?
Also, if they do merge back, could CBSAA have the rights to all the Trek movies?

Lastly, I am not sure I like Kurtzman as the new Berman. Not a question, just a statement.

Why was Moonves against CBS merging with Viacom?

It’s complicated, as I understand it a lot of it was company politics. He wanted his guy as second in command, and not someone from Viacom. There was also ego about essentially being told what to do by the Redstones. Also, while CBS is a small media company in today’s market, it is well valued and considered a strong company that spends money carefully. Viacom has been much more of a mess as it slowly course corrects. So Moonves didn’t feel like being saddled with it, he certainly wanted parts of the Viacom conglomerate, like Paramount, but not all of it.

Denny C

I attended a meeting several years ago where Moonves was asked about his role within Viacom and how things went down after the split. Moonves said he was offered two options: take control of CBS or Viacom and Paramount Pictures. Moonves opted for CBS feeling that there was more potential for growth with CBS and his instincts were correct. That said, Moonves was primarily driven by ego throughout his career and the idea of recombining National Amusements’ assets would diminish his role and by all accounts Shari Redstone was not a fan of Moonves and vice versa. Unlike Redstone, Moonves was always an employee and thus always expendable. Once the harassment claims dropped (and there had been rumors for years) the merger was an inevitability.

Once the assets are recombined, essentially recreating the company that existed in 2006, all Star Trek will be recombined as well.

I’m sure I dislike Kurtzman as the new Berman.

DeanH

Although it is on a much larger scale, the FOX/Disney deal reunites FOX Marvel characters such as the XMen with the Avengers and other Marvel properties over at Disney. It only seems to make sense that the big and small screen Star Trek properties also eventually reunite BUT be warned, when it comes to egos, these kind of deals can also generate ill-will between the now separate groups. So I guess we should just sit back and see what happens.

HubcapDave

I would like to see this happen for no other reason than it would put ME’s “alternative license BS to bed….

Sam

Except that their “alternate license” BS claims it’s the same license as the Kelvin films. I don’t see a CBS/Viacom merger putting that intentional fallacy to rest.

PEB

I would watch the hell out of a Pike film series.

Well Disney will own evrything one day, so might as well :P

Disney would know what to do with Star Trek. I’d be beyond thrilled if they somehow snapped up the entire franchise. Plus, imagine the theme-park opportunities…

Ian

Because Disney would really value Star Trek when they have Star Wars and Marvel. Please. People need to get their heads out of the clouds about distractions like X-Men getting united with Marvel and embrace the value of competition and smaller companies prioritizing their star IPs.

Star Trek is much better off as a marquee brand to CBS/Viacom than it would be at a bigger company with more valuable properties. And if the re-merged company gets bought up later, pray it’s by an entity that doesn’t own a lot of franchises already.

I dunno; having all of Trek for Disney+ would be fairly valuable, I would think.

Anyways, it’s purely hypothetical, and I doubt Disney has the slightest bit of interest. (FOR NOW…) But if they did, they’d put the brand to better artistic use than CBS seems to be doing (to say nothing of Paramount).

tezna

Even if Disney had the money (they don’t as they are massively overleveraged) or interest in buying CBS-Viacom there is a high chance of it not being approved by the Government. It won’t be tolerated for a long time with the purchase of Fox.

Good point.

Thorny

Disney is going to be raking in cash for the rest of the year though. Avengers: Endgame is heading toward the $1 billion worldwide mark in its first week. $1 billion. And they have near-guaranteed hits in Aladdin, Lion King, and Toy Story 4 lined for all summer. And Rise of Skywalker looms in December.

No, they’re not hurting for money.

tezna

Disney is massively in debt, they need every billion to pay down on that debt. They are not going to be stupid and go 10s of billions of $ into further debt.

A34

Disney would just bribe trump to get it approved.

Ian

I don’t like Discovery, but I don’t really get the criticisms of CBS. They pursued Bryan Fuller to launch the new show, him being the only man this side of Ron Moore and Ira Steven Behr that fandom would be excited to see at the helm. He was let go through what looks to be plenty of faults of his own, judging by his track record of not playing nice with people.

We are getting a variety of series from very different writers, all of them protected to a degree by the CBS All Access pay wall, and one of them enticed Patrick Stewart back into the fold.

CBS spent millions to remaster TNG, something I can’t see Paramount ever doing – they haven’t even done proper rescans of all the motion pictures.

Star Trek is the flagship property for All Access, something that hasn’t happened since Voyager launched UPN. Can you imagine any other corporation besides maybe Apple valuing this IP the same way?

Thorny

Apple would probably make a major move on getting CBS/Viacom.

Just Another Salt Vampire

Or Netflix or Amazon possibly also.

A34

This would hardly have any effect on Star Trek.

Just Another Salt Vampire

The main effect would be to remove the corporate barrier between the movies and the television productions, as it was before the Viacom/CBS split. That could expedite the production of the movies and give them a much wider range of possible source material.

A34

Did the split have any effect on Star Trek. I don’t remember any. The only reason they stopped making movies was because the movies sucked. The JJ movies are great but they don’t pull in enough money to make it viable.

Ian

The split made CBS prioritize legacy product and delayed the start of a new series due to a non-compete clause. JJ Abrams wanted support from CBS and to explore wider merchandising opportunities, but got little traction beyond tacit approval of what Paramount did with its license. There was zero synergy in how the companies celebrated Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, in stark contrast to how Viacom went all out for its 30th.

I’d say that’s a marked effect.

A34

And it gave us CBS ACCESS. That’s a great outcome.

This seems more driven by the need for CBS to have some feature film capability ‘in house’ then by any desire to bring anything Trek specific to the forefront. Sorry, but the idea of a Trek Cinematic Universe is just ridiculous from a business perspective.

jimkirk

and why would it be ridiculous?

jimkirk

Merger would result in a synergy that can only benefit both the motion pictures as well as the streaming services/TV offerings. Imagine, now we can have an occasional Discovery adventure on the big screen along with JJ Abram’s verse Kirk and company on the big screen every few years, and in between we can have a Picard or a Pike or Section 31 motion picture. The motion pictures would supplement what CBS ALL Access offers and vice versa. A merger would allow them to freely play in the other universe, do crossovers of cast and use references from the other universe.

Joseph

He does raise a point. Outside of TMP and the 2009 movie, Star Trek films have not been exceptional performers at the box office. They tended to make money by being cheap to make rather than by drawing in huge crowds. Which is why Paramount was so determined to cut costs for the fourth Kelvin movie that they let Chris Pine walk away from the table.
There’s no good reason to assume a merger with CBS would lead to an increase in audience numbers for the films. The best they could really hope for is that they could reuse the props and sets from DSC and Picard to save a million dollars here and there to lower the break even point. They’re already heavily invested in the streaming space, and the money for a film would probably get a better return if it were invested there.

MarkZ

Star Trek IV was the 5th highest grossing film of 1986. Wrath of Khan was 6th highest grossing film of 1982. Not exactly lightweight performers. Star Trek movies have tended to do well at the box office when they get good reviews (shocker).

Thorny

Star Trek II set the opening weekend box office record in 1982, but it was eclipsed the next year by Return of the Jedi.

@ MarkZ: ….and, so what? That was then – this is now, thirty seven years later, Star Wars is an IP that was worth a four billion dollar investment by Disney. Disney theme parks are going to make a mountain of money off of Galaxy’s Edge for years to come. Paramount, on the other hand, can’t scare up the money to make another Trek movie.

Thorny

Well, my reply was to Joseph’s statement “Star Trek films have not been exceptional performers at the box office.”

That simply isn’t true.

Elsewhere in this thread, I commented that Disney’s “Avengers: Endgame” raked-in $1 billion in five days. (It has since risen to $1.2 billion.) And one reply was that Disney has a mountain of debt to pay off, so this doesn’t mean they have a lot of cash to play with.

Trek movies have not been exceptional performers. The Bad Robot movies were roughly break even, at best, and if you factor in the last two TNG moves there really hasn’t been a box office smash since Trek IV. Trek produces revenue consistently across all sources. There’s a reason Trek 4 and Tarentino Trek are dead – no one saw anything in them to risk valuable capital on. Disney is hardly cash strapped, unlike Paramount, but that doesn’t mean you go stupid with your capital, which is why they are reevaluating their Star Wars projects. Trek just isn’t that kind of franchise. If Paramount is sold, whoever buys it isn’t doing so so they can acquire Trek.

Afterburn

It’s all how you define “exceptional performers.” Are you talking tickets sold, revenue, or profit? Hollywood accounting can make Star Trek: Nemesis profitable, or Avengers Endgame a money loser.

Ian

Disney is doing fine, whereas Paramount is in trouble. Hollywood accounting won’t help them – they need bonafide hits, not break-even disappointments like Beyond ended up being.

Thorny

Star Trek 2009 was the Number 7 movie of 2009 at the Box Office. Maybe you consider being one of the Top 10 movies of the year to be unexceptional, but I disagree.

Ian

Trek movies would still be happening if STID and Beyond had both cost $125-150 million instead of north of $185m. They built up an admirable new audience, but got reckless with how they spent their money.

It’s ridiculous for this reason – as expected, Endgame made a butt load of money this weekend. The end result of developing this IP over the course of ten years. As to not incur the wrath of the moderators, let’s just say they accomplished this with a story that contained no surprises at all. None. How is this relevant to Trek? Well, when you look at all the cash that’s being spent on cinematic spectacle, can you really blame Paramount for not wanting to tap into that vein? At least for the older fan base, the cold slap of reality is that old Trek just isn’t capable of delivering that level of box office without embracing putting spectacle on the big screen. That’s something that portion of the fan base, based on comments seen there, is just opposed to. The reaction to JJ’s failed attempt to walk that high wire demonstrated that it’s a hard act to pull off…and as currently constituted, Paramount management doesn’t have any vision to move the franchise forward, either. The return on investment for a Trek Cinematic Universe just isn’t there, either in investor dollars or the patience it would take to develop a younger fan base that wants to see some spectacle for their movie dollars.

Ian

Well, to the limited extent that Trek pioneered a Cinematic/TV universe like Marvel does now, the jury is still out on whether they leaned into that too much or too little. Trek was considered pretty niche by the time of Insurrection, First Contact rose to unusual heights on the strength of the promotional wave of the 30th Anniversary and some excellent reviews. Had Insurrection been about Q or the Dominion War and featured say, Sisko or Dax in addition to Worf, then maybe we’d have had a more satisfying film for fans, but would that have translated to better box office or even better ratings for DS9 and Voyager? We will never know, but it’s dubious. Trek box office on the surface stayed very steady for two decades, with outliers in IV, V and First Contact, but when you account for inflation and ticket prices, that means attendance between 1979 and 1998 was actually down quite sharply.

So for Paramount to keep pumping more money for each film into the same formula and knowing that at most they might get $150 million worldwide at the box office, that’s not really competing with the big boys when it comes to franchises. It really did take a clean slate and JJ Abrams to make the films a force to be reckoned with beyond opening weekend. He made the fatal mistake of spending too much on subsequent films and taking the new audience for granted, so I don’t know if there’s a big enough loyal audience to support a cinematic universe and TV synergy – the core audience is who turned out for Nemesis and watched Enterprise – that’s fine for low budget films but Paramount isn’t into that anymore, and it’s fine for TV if it’s behind the All Access paywall, but the casual audience is a tough one to court. Star Wars even had trouble with it when they made Solo.

NCC Lincon 1785

They will still lose the streaming wars

Not with a brand as strong as Disney’s, they won’t. Netflix isn’t going to lose, either; Hulu might, but Netflix won’t.

Disinvited

Bryant Burnette,

Doesn’t Disney own the major controlling interest in Hulu? And recently it was announced the other major investors were pulling out. Tea leaves say Disney’s buying out Hulu. If that’s so, its Disney branding means that’s not going to happen by your reasoning.

Thorny

Where will NBC/Universal go if they pull out of Hulu? Oh great, we’ll have to pay for ANOTHER streaming service if we want to watch shows from NBC?

Disinvited

Thorny,

One possibility is that they form yet another streaming service.

Cygnus-X1

I was against this merger back when I had hope that CBS would soon be supplying the real Trek. But, now that both companies have demonstrated they’re utterly clueless about what made Trek great (or even good) back when it was, why not merge them and have two bad tastes that taste bad together, if I can borrow from Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I don’t see how things could get any worse. I’ve already lost interest in watching Trek made by either company, and every indication is that neither company has any interest in courting people like me (how’s that for inclusiveness?). So, at this point in the Trek franchise, there’s literally nothing left for me to lose. Merge them, don’t merge them, set them both afire, change the premise of the franchise to a brass band of kamikaze clowns. It literally can’t get any worse than it is now. The Trek brand has already suffered a schism in much the same way as the Star Wars brand has, where one now has to specify that they are a fan of The Original Trilogy rather than of Star Wars. Analogously, people like me now have to say that we are fans of pre-JJ Trek, lest people get the wrong idea about us. So, go ahead and merge them. Or, not. Whatevs. At least there’s The Orville. It’s far from perfect, but it’s usually enjoyable. And it’s not ruining a great legacy. There should be a Hippocratic Oath for entertainment franchises: First, do no harm.

That’s a lot of words to spell “I don’t care”…

Cygnus-X1

Salvador Nogueira

Because I’m spelling out more than that.

Actually, you’re not. And ‘do no harm’ is about as subjective as it gets.

Cygnus-X1

Phil

I most certainly am. And so what? You might as well say that art and entertainment are subjective. Even if they are, it wouldn’t imply that all subjects are alike.

Cygnus-X1

(Am too! Am too! Am too! … To infinity!)

AJinMoscow

My Spidey-sense of urgency as a Star Trek fan is no longer tingling at the thought of this merger ‘bringing TV and cinematic Trek back under one roof.’ TV Trek is fine right now, and the need for the JJ-verse to return is becoming less and less of a thing. Put Pike up on the big screen? Now that would be great. Good luck THAT happening.

Afterburn

You’re not looking at the big picture: the ability for Paramount’s movie catalog (including all 13 Trek films) to be streaming alongside their TV shows, and in the specific case of Trek, the total control of the franchise: so if they don’t WANT to do films, they don’t have to. Right now, CBS cannot stop Paramount from pursuing more films, and muddying up whatever brand plan they have for the TV shows. It’s never ideal when a brand is owned by two separate companies, for so many reasons.

Disinvited

Afterburn,

Re:CBS cannot stop Paramount from pursuing more films, and muddying up whatever brand plan they have for the TV shows.

What a pile of absolute hooey. CBS owns the prime originating copyrights to STAR TREK and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. What rights Paramount have to those properties are derivative and secondary to those prime rights.

CBS has the right to gum up ANY and ALL planned Paramount MISSION IMPOSSIBLE and/or STAR TREK projects with an injunction claiming that said projects dilute or devalue their rights as the primary copyrights holder.

Paramount has to appease CBS to make MI and ST movies. Not the other way around.

Ian

We don’t know the particulars, though, not even the term of the license. It seems very much like how Fox was free to do whatever it liked with the Marvel rights it had while the Marvel Universe films and shows were separate.

Disinvited

Ian,

Licensing doesn’t matter. The Disney lobbied copyright laws do. As long as CBS holds the primary copyrights they can bring a halt to ANY endeavor that they as the holder of the primary copyrights say threatens their value.

Licensing just falls under civil contract laws, and BOTH Paramount and CBS have no qualms about breaking those. Just ask Hemsworth and Pine about Paramount’s honoring their negotiated option pickups?

Afterburn

I’m afraid to break it to you, but you’re wrong and you frankly have no idea what you’re talking about.

If they hold the license to the film rights to Star Trek, it depends on what the contract says. For example, the Sony agreement with marvel basically, said that as long as they had a film in active development within 4 years of release of the previous film, they would retain the license. That’s why they were trying to rush Raimi on the fourth film, and quickly pivoted to a reboot when he backed out.

I don’t know what the license given to Paramount grants them, as far as I understand, it’s not even a typical license: it’s ownership, granted to them when the companies split.

Disinvited

Afterburn,

No, I’m sorry, you don’t know what you are talking about, i.e. the M as in monopoly Disney successfully lobbied for holders of originating copyrights which was never split for STAR TREK, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, or MANNIX. Film projects for those entities were attempted long after their founding television productions and ANY copyrights arising from any motion pictures arising from those exploratory projects’ licenses were and are secondary and derivative to the primary television copyrights. Motion Picture productions for those shows simply have absolutely NO right to actions which dilute or devalue the primary copyright holder’s, CBS’, original copyrights. They simply can’t dictate to CBS what type of STAR TREK CBS can make and how.

CBS, indeed, can enter into contracts offering to police their practices in favor of licensed film productions, but they can readily and easily break those contracts by filing copyright claims that the various film productions are devaluing their primary copyright monopoly. So far, the courts have not allowed secondary, derivative film copyrights to trump the primary holder’s.

Ted Antonopoulos

I hate to be the spoiler but Kurtz and JJ are not the answer. If the merger goes ahead, the franchise still needs someone to lead it that understands Star Trek. The very fact that these two preferred a reboot/prequel as opposed to taking further bold steps into the future is an indication that they are more comfortable with revising existing material than creating something of their own that builds on the rich and expansive mythological canvass that has come before them. In fact, if the licensing issues are accurate, what better way to portray Star Trek with a 25% deviation in the esthetic than taking the stories 100 years after TNG, DS9 and Voyager? The answer may be that its simply easier to go where everyone has gone before…

Alec Grimes

If I had power like the ones who do…I would be adapting Trek Novels for the big screen and the small screen would be of course for series.
I would love to see Star Trek: Imzadi adapted for the big screen. Sure some stuff would have to be changed…but that was one awesome novel by Peter David.

DIGINON

I’ve never read Star Trek: Imzadi but in general novels don’t always translate well from book to movie.

Alec Grimes

Star Trek Discovery is visually the best Trek series ever. I hope Picard series is just as visually impressive. The thing that got old about the other series was the camera always stood still. With Discovery…we got a cinema like experiance. Big fan of Discovery…and have been a Trek fan for over 40 years.

A34

I love how they move the cameras in Discovery. Never a dull moment.

DIGINON

I agree that Discovery is the most visually impressive Trek series to date. To some extend this is to be expected because it is the show with the highest budget and apparently is also allowed a slower production pace, giving them more time per episode. As for the camera movement, I have found it a little distracting in some cases although I’m not nearly as bothered by it as some others here are.

Van Banoovong

A re-merger has to happen with Star Trek’s film and tv universes. I would like to see a crossover between Captain Pike and his Enterprise crew, Discovery, Picard, and the Kelvin Universe that’s inspired by the Q-Conflict comic storyline.

Nate

Lets not forget that with the merger, Maestro Professor Field Marshal The Rev. Sir Dr. Stephen T. Mos Def Colbert D.F.A., Esquire Heavyweight Champion of the World, could potentially appear again on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert