American media company CBS has reached an agreement to acquire Viacom, merging the two into ViacomCBS. The all stock-merger creates a combined company with more than US$28 billion in revenue.
Viacom president and CEO Bob Bakish will be president and CEO of the ViacomCBS, while CBS’ president and CEO Joe Ianniello will shift to being the chairman and CEO of CBS, overseeing all CBS-branded assets. The team will also consist of Christina Spade as EVP and CFO, and Christa D’Alimonte as EVP, general counsel and secretary. Shari Redstone is the chairman of ViacomCBS.
The deal is expected to close by the end of the year, and the combined entity plans to save US$500 million within two years by eliminating overlapping operations and other initiatives.
The content portfolio for the merged company now includes Nickelodeon, Paramount, Showtime, Comedy Central, CBS, MTV, CW and several regional broadcasters. The combined companies have spent more than US$13 billion in the last 12 months on content and plan to continue those efforts across its portfolio.
But the big question hanging in the air is what does this merger means for the kids content space?
ViacomCBS will now oversees Nickelodeon, Channel 5′s preschool block Milkshake! and all of CBS All Access’ new kids content efforts, just announced last week.
“What I find amazing is the scale of the combined organization,” says acting head of research for kid research company Dubit Adam Woodgate.
Together, the two companies have some 140,000 episodes of TV series and 3,600 film series. ViacomCBS combined platforms account for 22% of all television viewing in the US—bigger than Comcast (18%) and Disney (14%), according to Dubit.
“It will be interesting to see if the [merged companies] pursue further [company] acquisitions as well,” says Woodgate.
From an immediate, day-to-day perspective, the merger isn’t likely to affect Nickelodeon to a large degree, says Pete Robinson, chief operating officer at KidsKnowBest. If anything this just gives Nickelodeon more of a chance to shine, he says. “The one thing Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. do better than anyone else is create consumer product blockbusters from linear TV shows. This gives them access to CBS’ own younger skewing brands [Star Trek, Riverdale and The Big Bang Theory], which can be exploited,” says Robinson.
However, the merger outlook isn’t all rosy: While Nickelodeon has a very clearly defined brand and outlook, the recently launched kids content on CBS All Access has a less clear focus. Combined, the direction ViacomCBS is likely to take is muddled.
“I don’t see how it all fits together across the multiple platforms, business models and trenches of kids content,” Robinson says. “But if they collect data on which brands across each platform create meaningful audience relationships, they may continue to grow niche and mainstream among broader audiences.”
Ultimately, this is a battle for eyeballs, more than anything else.
“Viacom and CBS needed more clout,” he adds. “This should make it more competitive by increasing its audience reach across demographics in both channels and brands.”
Meanwhile, what the merger means for the streaming space is a whole other story entirely. It’s fairly well reported that kids content keeps people paying for SVOD services month to month and stops adults cancelling a subscription after they’ve caught up on their favorite show. But whether this is enough to compete in the streaming space, or if ViacomCBS even wants to compete at this point, remains to be seen.
The research director at London-based market research firm Ampere Analysis Guy Bisson thinks that it’s likely the merged company pursues a global streaming approach in the future, similar to Disney’s approach, rather than licensing its content to third-parties like CBS previously has done with shows such as Riverdale and Nickelodeon has been doing through its original animated film deal with Netflix for Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Loud House feature movies.
“Scale will allow ViacomCBS to roll out more of its direct-to-consumer brands globally and that will most definitely include kids brands,” says Bisson. “But this won’t happen overnight.”