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CBS, Viacom to renew merger talks

US media giant Viacom’s share price has risen following reports that the board of fellow stateside firm CBS Corporation is preparing to restart merger talks with the MTV and Nickelodeon owner.

Bob Bakish

Talks between the two are set to begin halfway through next month, according to CNBC, which cited sources familiar with the situation.

This has resulted in Viacom shares rising 3.5% to close at US$28.72 yesterday, while CBS shares went up by around 3.2% to close at US$48.20.

Discussions could begin sooner than mid-June, while Viacom CEO Bob Bakish would likely run the combined entity, the report added.

The talks have long been anticipated as the two media giants are both controlled by the Redstone family’s National Amusements. Former CBS CEO Leslie Moonves opposed the combination but left in disgrace last year, with acting CEO Joseph Ianniello remaining in the role for now.

National Amusements has previously attempted to combine the companies on two separate occasions in 2016 and 2018.

Viacom bought Showtime owner CBS in 2000, only for the two firms to split six years later. Since then, CBS has enjoyed growth while Viacom has struggled to expand as planned, although it has added to its list of assets in recent years.

The merger would see CBS’s television network combined with Viacom’s cable channels, which also include Comedy Central and BET, as well as its movie studio Paramount Pictures.

Viacom also owns Channel 5 in the UK, Telefe in Argentina and Colors in India, the latter via its partnership with TV18, as well as AVoD service Pluto TV.

The proposed merger follows Disney’s US$52bn acquisition of major 21st Century Fox assets and AT&T’s US$85bn purchase of Time Warner as the US media industry undergoes a major period of consolidation in the face of disruption from streaming giants.

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