CBS and Viacom

Reunited and it feels so good: CBS and Viacom, two companies which were once joined but have spent nearly thirteen years operating as separate entities, are now merging once again. The deal could take months to be totally finalized, but this is a move that should give the newly-named ViacomCBS a fighting chance to survive in the streaming era.

Deadline brings word about the long-discussed merger, which results in what board chair Shari Redstone called “a world-class, multiplatform media organization that is well-positioned for growth in a rapidly transforming industry.” The transforming industry seems to be a primary reason behind this merger, because it puts brands like Paramount Pictures, CBS, Showtime, MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, VH1, Comedy Central, Pluto TV, and The Paramount Network under the same corporate roof. CBS already had its CBS All Access streaming service and Showtime has its own subscription service as well, but The Verge says ViacomCBS “will be able to offer a library of more than 140,000 TV episodes and more than 3,600 movies”, including the Transformers franchise.

It’s important to note, though, that just because a popular show aired on CBS doesn’t mean that it will automatically belong to this newly-formed conglomerate. Take The Big Bang Theory, for instance: that show was a ratings hit on CBS for a decade, but it was co-produced by Warner Bros. Television, and its streaming rights are currently being sought in a $1.5 billion deal by WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming service, HBO Max.

I’m extremely curious to see if CBS, which commands 22% of the TV viewership share (that’s larger than Disney, Fox, Comcast, Warner, and Discovery), will be able to survive in the long run with the rise of streaming. Sure, the network may dominate the ratings now, but when streaming becomes the primary form of entertainment, will CBS All Access (or maybe even another newly-branded service that they’ve yet to launch) be able to not only compete, but thrive against rivals like Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, HBO Max, the NBCUniversal streaming platform, Quibi, and Apple TV+? Will audiences subscribe to this service when so much other high-profile content is already on the table? That’s the question we’ll continue to ask ourselves until this streaming bubble eventually bursts, but until then, we’ll watch the players make moves to shore themselves up for the coming battle.

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