News


Viacom international and US channels to be merged under Bakish

Bob Bakish

Bob Bakish

Viacom’s international and US channel groups are merging into a new unit that Bob Bakish will lead as interim company president and CEO.

Viacom International Media Networks and domestic networks arm Viacom Music and Entertainment Group are coming together as Viacom Global Entertainment Group (VGEG).

Furthermore, the Viacom Kids and Family Group, which Cyma Zarghami leads, is being rebranded as Nickelodeon Group – placing much more emphasis on the Nickelodeon kids cable channel. African-America-focused unit BET Networks will remain as a separate operating business.

On Friday, Bakish was tipped to replace Viacom’s interim president and CEO, Tom Dooley, and this has been confirmed as part of the restructure, along with the new VGEG role, which is a permanent post.

Though Viacom is exploring a merger with cousin CBS Corp., Bakish is now well placed to play a significant role in events going forwards as interim company CEO. He has led VIMN, and predecessor MTV Networks International, since 2006.

Going forwards, Bakish will be “responsible for accelerating the growth of Viacom’s industry-leading networks and reinvigorating Viacom’s brands”, according to the company’s board. He will also focus on developing new content, expanding distribution and “pursuing strategic growth opportunities in Viacom’s core businesses”.

The new VGEG unit will comprise MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, Spike and Logo, with the TV Land and CMT networks moving across from the Viacom Kids and Family/Nickelodeon unit.

In effect, the restructure puts back in place the structure that existed before Van Toffler exited Viacom during a period of significant restructuring last year, and the establishment of Viacom Music and Entertainment and Viacom Kids and Family Group.

An internal note from Bakish revealed Viacom Music and Entertainment chief Doug Herzog, who replaced Toffler, will remain with National Amusements-owned company, as will kids chief Zarghami and BET boss Debra Lee.

Bakish joined Viacom in 1997, steadily moving up before taking on the international business a decade ago. The division currently operates more than 200 channels around the world, and international revenues have double under Bakish’s leadership.

“Bob’s record of innovation and achievement at Viacom, combined with his strategic vision and leadership ability, make him highly qualified for this position,” said Tom May, chairman of the board. “We are determined to move forward aggressively to strengthen Viacom for the future, whether as a stand-alone company or in a potential combination with CBS.

“There is a great deal of opportunity ahead and Bob is a superb leader to drive this effort, fully empowered to take the actions necessary to position Viacom for success.”

Bakish said content was “the lifeblood” of the Viacom business, a statement that will appeal to shareholders who felt previous permanent CEO Philippe Dauman did not focus enough on TV programming and film production.

The appointment is made to the backdrop of a potential merger with CBS, which is also controlled by the Redstone family’s National Amusements. Both sides have teams in place exploring a tie-up, which was last in place just before Bakish took control of Viacom’s international unit.