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Viacom CEO: ‘There’s tremendous and growing demand for content’

Aarthi Swaminathan
Finance Writer

A potential merger with CBS is looming, but Viacom (VIA) CEO Bob Bakish says he’s focused on moving the media giant forward and delivering growth. 

“There’s tremendous and growing demand for content,” Bakish told Yahoo Finance at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Wednesday. As technology creates more opportunities for screens — such as in an autonomous car with all-around screens — this represents a “tremendous opportunity for Viacom,” said Bakish.

Bob Bakish, President and CEO of Viacom, arrives at the MTV Movie and TV Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on Sunday, May 7, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Bakish, who came on board in 2016, has been focused on turning the company around, and his biggest success has been with Paramount Pictures. Calling it a “story of turnaround and evolution,” he said the company was in a “fundamentally better place.”

He pointed out that the newest installment of “Mission Impossible” — the sixth in the series — was the “largest revenue installment of the franchise, not only worldwide… but also in the U.S.,” adding that “that typically doesn’t happen in the sixth one.”

Actor Tom Cruise attends a red carpet for the new movie ‘Mission Impossible – Fallout’ world promotional tour at Lotte World mall in Seoul, South Korea on July 16, 2018. (Photo Credit Lee Young-ho/Sipa USA)

‘Third time we’re hearing this narrative’

Aside from Paramount, Viacom also owns assets like Comedy Central, MTV, and Nickelodeon, which Morgan Stanley analyst Ben Swinburne dubs its “crown jewel.” The company also owned CBS until 2006.

The CBS board meets on January 31 and is expected to discuss the possibility of a merger, but Bakish noted that “this is now the third time we’re hearing this narrative.”

The Redstones, who hold an 80% controlling stake in both CBS and Viacom, have been strongly advocating for a merger, which longtime CBS CEO Les Moonves opposed. But after Moonves left last year amid allegations of sexual misconduct, CBS replaced six of its board members. Moonves’s former deputy, Joseph Ianniello, took over as acting CEO, which has cleared the way for the union.

Les Moonves: Former CBS CEO denied $120m severance following sexual harassment claims

Meanwhile, a flurry of mergers and acquisitions have taken place in the communications space last year between companies like AT&T and Time Warner, Walt Disney and 21st Century Fox, Comcast and Sky and Discovery and Scripps Networks Interactive.

B. Riley FBR analyst considers a merger between CBS and Viacom “decidedly likely” by 2020.

Aarthi is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.

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