Years in the making, CBS and Viacom today announced that they’ve successfully negotiated a deal to combine via an all-stock merger, creating a company with more than $28 billion in revenue. The deal brings the two media companies back together after their split in January 2006. The merger also reunites the two sides to the Star Trek franchise: CBS who own the brand and television rights and library, and Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, who have held the Trek movie rights and film library.
Say hello to ViacomCBS where “content is king”
The new entity, called ViacomCBS, Inc., is being touted in the announcement as a “leading global, multiplatform, premium content company, with the assets, capabilities and scale to be one of the most important content producers and providers in the world.” ViacomCBS will include the largest television business in the U.S., with the highest share of broadcast and cable viewing “across all key audience demographics.” According to ViacomCBS the merger will “accelerate CBS and Viacom’s ability to deliver an array of compelling content to important and diverse audiences across both traditional and emerging platforms around the world.”
The newly merged ViacomCBS will have Viacom CEO Robert Bakish at the top as President and CEO. Former acting CBS Corp. CEO Joseph Ianniello will become Chairman and CEO of CBS, where he will oversee all CBS-branded assets in the new company.
The merger was initiated originally by Shari Redstone, Vice Chair of the Boards of Directors, CBS and Viacom. In a statement, Redstone says: “I am really excited to see these two great companies come together so that they can realize 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.”
Star Trek cited as part of the strategic rationale
As we previously reported, getting Star Trek back under one roof has been cited as an important factor of the merger. Star Trek was even mentioned in the official press release from ViacomCBS as one of the strategic rationales:
Premium content at scale. The combined company will possess a portfolio of powerful consumer brands, including CBS, Showtime, Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central and Paramount Network, as well as one of the largest libraries of iconic intellectual property, spanning every key genre and addressing consumers of all ages and demographics. This library comprises 140,000+ TV episodes and 3,600+ film titles, and reunites fan-favorite franchises such as Star Trek and Mission: Impossible. The combined company will also have more than 750 series currently ordered to or in production. In addition, it will include a major Hollywood film studio, Paramount Pictures, which creates and distributes feature-length entertainment around the world. The combined company will also be one of the largest content spenders, with more than $13 billion spent in the last 12 months.
In the short term, any deal may mean little with regard to Star Trek. CBS is still actively developing and producing a number of Star Trek TV shows. Paramount likewise has two scripts in the wings, with the Tarantino project seemingly getting some traction. Once the merger goes through the approval process, and the corporate structures are merged, there could be important changes to the franchise in the medium-to-long term for Star Trek.
CBS—who is the purchasing entity for the merger—is clearly taking Star Trek seriously with their continued expansion of the television franchise. The company has announced a number of additional Star Trek series for CBS All Access, and an animated series for kids on Nickelodeon—which is, of course, part of Viacom. All of this activity has been put under one unit already with the recent CBS announcement of the Star Trek Global Franchise Group, headed up by Alex Kurtzman. Exact details of how Star Trek will be handled going forward are not expected today. However, the re-merger will likely involve Kurtzman’s group taking over the development of Star Trek feature films.
The merger could also involve changes for CBS All Access, which is currently the primary home of Star Trek on TV in the USA. The merger statement from ViacomCBS promises a three-part plan for growth, with the first part to “accelerate direct-to-consumer strategy.”
The merger will be subject to the usual regulatory approvals, but ViacomCBS expect the deal to close by the end of 2019.
Keep checking TrekMovie for updates about the plans for Star Trek in the newly merged corporation.