CBS, Viacom agree to merge into media giant
Shari Redstone Rob Latour (Shutterstock)

After some false starts, CBS and Viacom announced Tuesday they will combine to form the latest media empire in a wave of mergers driven by the need for companies to reformulate themselves for the streaming era.

The new company will have more than $28 billion in revenue and comprise brands such as MTV, Comedy Central and Showtime, as well as Paramount Pictures and publisher Simon & Schuster.

The transaction will bolster their ability to develop original programming that can win subscribers to premium channel, score well with advertisers and resonate with audiences in international markets, the companies said.

The deal recombines two entities that were under the same corporate umbrella until they were broken apart in 2006 by Sumner Redstone, chairman emeritus of National Amusements, which holds almost 80 percent of both companies.

The deal comes on the heels of other large transactions in media, including Disney's $71.3 billion acquisition of key assets from Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox, and AT&T's $85 billion purchase of Time Warner.

"I am really excited to see these two great companies come together so that they can realize the incredible power of their combined assets," said Shari Redstone, who will chair the new company, ViacomCBS.

"My father once said 'content is king,' and never has that been more true than today," she said in a statement. "We will establish a world-class, multi-platform media organization that is well-positioned for growth in a rapidly transforming industry."

The two companies failed in their earlier attempts to pull off a merger, due in part to opposition from former CBS chief executive Les Moonves, who was ousted in September 2018 amid sexual harassment allegations.

Joining forces will allow them to bolster investment in premium entertainment and boost their global reach, with broadcast networks in Britain, Argentina and Australia and content in 45 languages, the companies said in a press release. The deal also should result in $500 million in annual savings.

"The more scale you have, the more clout you have when go to in to negotiate with distributors or even with direct-to-consumers," said Tuna Amobi, analyst at CFRA Research. "It gives them a better chance to compete."

- Streaming era -

The traditional media industry is battling to deal with the rise of Netflix, Hulu and other streaming ventures that erode the position of conventional cable packages and broadcasters unveil "over-the-top" options.

CBS itself has launched its "All Access" service which provides on-demand programming for $5.99 per month with limited commercial interruptions or $9.99 per month for ad-free service.

And Disney in November plans to launch a new "Disney+" service at a starting price of $6.99 monthly that offer its films and television shows as well as the library it acquired through the Fox deal.

Under the all-stock transaction in the latest tie-up, existing CBS shareholders will own 61 percent of the company, while Viacom shareholders will own 39 percent.

Bob Bakish, chief executive of Viacom, will assume that post in the newly-combined company, while Joe Ianniello, acting chief executive at CBS, will become chairman and CEO of CBS, overseeing CBS-branded assets.

Shares of Viacom fell 5.6 percent to $30.75, while CBS rose 1.4 percent to $48.70.