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CBS, Viacom agree to merge into media giant

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Trump aides desperately try to downplay ‘order’ to US companies to leave China

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Donald Trump's top aides on Sunday downplayed the idea of US companies being forced to abandon China any time soon, as an edict from the president ordering businesses to start looking for alternatives has been met with skepticism.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economics advisor Larry Kudlow took to the airwaves from France, where Trump is participating in the G7 summit, to smooth out tensions in the business community prompted by Trump's Friday tweet.

Trump said he has "no plan now" to bring US companies in line, and his aides quickly reinforced the message.

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President Donald Trump doubled down Sunday on his hard line against China after sowing confusion with statements that he might be willing to soften a trade war G7 partners fear threatens the world economy.

At the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, Trump announced a major trade deal with Japan and promised more of the same with Britain, once Brexit is done.

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"I have second thoughts about everything," he conceded to reporters when asked if he regretted his decision on Friday to ramp up tariffs on all Chinese imports, worth some $550 billion, in retaliation for Beijing's earlier hike of levies on US goods.

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Persecuted Christians eye long-sought freedom in Sudan

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Sudan's Christians suffered decades of persecution under the regime of Islamist general Omar al-Bashir. Now they hope his downfall will give the religious freedom they have long prayed for.

Deep within the maze of dusty alleys that honeycomb Omdurman, Khartoum's sprawling twin city, Yousef Zamgila's church is not visible from the street.

It is hidden in the courtyard of a friend's home and consists of a few iron benches, a pulpit and crosses hastily painted on pillars holding a corrugated roof.

"The previous centre got destroyed because we didn't have the right papers. They always refused... So we use the land of our neighbours," says the Lutheran reverend.

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