Everyone in the United States knows Viacom, whether they recognize the name or not. Viacom owns networks like MTV, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon. The company, or more specifically the brand name, has had a long and bizarre history with broadcast company CBS. Viacom started out as CBS Films and was the syndication wing of CBS. It became Viacom (short for Video & Audio Communications) in 1970 and became its own, independent corporation in 1971. In 1999, Viacom acquired CBS through parent company Westinghouse Electric Company, making Viacom the new parent. In 2006, Viacom became CBS Corporation, and a new company, called Viacom, was created, to offload business that CBS no longer wanted.
This week, the two companies have agreed to once again become one in a merger that would create a media company worth roughly $30 billion. The new entity will be called ViacomCBS, putting the Viacom brand out front again. During a call with analysts, representatives from the companies said that the move was intended to help brands owned by both entities to better compete in the changing media landscape. In particular, they hope that the move will beef up their "direct-to-consumer" offerings, which the rest of us would call their online streaming.
Together, the merged company would own CBS All Access, SHOWTIME ANYTIME, Pluto TV, Noggin, and more. They are hoping that introducing kids' programming from the Nickelodeon brands into CBS All Access will help drive subscriptions, which have languished without many must-see programs.
The merger will still require regulatory approval, but the companies seem confident they will receive it quickly. In fact, they believe that the deal will be finalized before the end of the year. CBS shareholders will own 61% of ViacomCBS, but Viacom's head, Bob Bakish, will be President and CEO, while CBS's head, Jow Ianniello, will be Chairman of the corporation and CEO of CBS.