Commentary

Viacom-CBS Merger Battle Continues

“My guess is, yes, we will be independent a year from now.”

Can you guess who is speaking? That’s Bob Bakish, president-CEO, Viacom, talking at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen.

With all the talk about AT&T/Time Warner, Disney/Comcast and Fox and Sinclair/Tribune, we might have forgotten one of the more protracted and testy dances around two media companies: Viacom and CBS.

To refresh: National Amusements is the controlling owner of both CBS and Viacom -- headed by Shari Redstone, who wants to bring the companies back together.

After some resistance, CBS said in effect OK, albeit reluctantly. Then it had specific demands, which stirred some parties the wrong way. This was followed by a more public battle: legal action between CBS and National Amusements.

That’s where were we are at the moment -- and maybe more moments to come.

In that reference about Viacom staying independent  a year from now, has Bakish suggested bigger may not necessarily be better, alluding perhaps to a Viacom/CBS re-merger.

He said at the Aspen event: "There are plenty of examples of scale where there's actually no value to the combination. We see that today in some assets where they own both media and distribution, but there really isn't a lot of crossover.”

As everyone -- including Netflix -- has figured out -- anyone can now make good TV and movie content. It just takes some money, something many other technology companies -- have. The list includes Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook, as well as medium-size media-technology players like Snapchat.

What about traditional TV distribution? Isn’t that still good for Viacom and its big brands: MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1, BET? Yes. But for long-term growth? No way.

In the OTT digital media world, it’s a democratization for cable networks. Even then, big broadcast network companies are taking a big seat in the OTT world of digital pay TV services.

Viacom and other cable-centric TV networks can only look to low-cost digital pay TV services, like Philo, in the future. Staying independent? Maybe for a year.

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