Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Viacom (short for Video & Audio Communications) [pronunciation: pre-Redstone/pre-1987: "vee-a-com"; post-Redstone acquisition: "vi-a-com"] is an international media conglomerate. The companies owned by Viacom touch virtually every major segment of the media industry. Sumner Redstone is Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer. Mel Karmazin resigned as President and Chief Operating Officer on June 1, 2004, and it was announced that these offices would be jointly held by 58-year-old Tom Freston and 53-year-old Leslie Moonves, who had headed the MTV Networks and CBS units respectively. Redstone, 81, then announced that he would step down as CEO within three years.
Viacom began life as the television syndication division of CBS, CBS Films. In 1971, the division was renamed VIACOM (Video & Audio Communications), and in 1973 it was spun off, amid new FCC rules forbidding television networks from owning syndication companies.
Viacom made large amounts of money during the 1970s and 1980s distributing old CBS classics to syndication, including such landmark shows as I Love Lucy, The Andy Griffith Show and All in the Family (which was owned by Embassy/Columbia Pictures Television). They also syndicated shows for others, the biggest examples being The Cosby Show and Roseanne (which were owned by Carsey-Werner).
In 1985, Viacom bought Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment, which owned MTV and Nickelodeon, renaming the company MTV Networks. Viacom also received Showtime Networks, Inc. (which included Showtime and The Movie Channel), which has retained its original name, Showtime Networks, Inc. In 1986, Viacom was bought by movie theater owner National Amusements, which brought Sumner Redstone to the company. Redstone made a string of large acquisitions in the early 1990s, announcing plans to buy Paramount Pictures in 1993, and buying the Blockbuster Video chain in 1994.
The Blockbuster acquisition gave Viacom access to large television holdings controlled by Aaron Spelling's company, Spelling Entertainment; along with his own productions (such as The Love Boat and Beverly Hills 90210), Spelling controlled the pre-1973 ABC and NBC back catalogs by way of Worldvision Enterprises and Republic Pictures. After these acquisitions, Viacom owned many movie and television production and syndication units, which were slowly integrated into Paramount; many TV shows previously distributed by Viacom, Republic or Worldvision have since gained Paramount closing logos.
In 1999, Viacom made what has been its biggest acquisition so far, by announcing plans to buy its former parent CBS. The merger was approved in 2000, bringing cable channels TNN (now Spike TV) and Country Music Television (CMT) under Viacom's wing, as well as CBS's production units and TV syndicators Eyemark (formerly Group W) and King World. As of this writing, CBS's production unit and King World (which has since absorbed Eyemark) are operating under their own names, as parts of CBS, and no attempt has been made thus far to move them around in Viacom's corporate structure; however, TNN and CMT were merged into MTV Networks almost immediately.
In 2001, Viacom completed its purchase of Black Entertainment Television (BET). As with TNN and CMT, it was immediately integrated into MTV Networks, causing some outcry among BET workers in the Washington, DC area (where BET was based before the merger). As a result, BET was de-integrated from MTV Networks.
Although a majority economic interest in Viacom is held by independent shareholders, the Redstone family maintains 71% voting control of the company through National Amusements' holdings of Viacom's class A stock.
In June 2004, Viacom bought the German VIVA Media AG , the German equivalent to MTV. Therefore, Viacom is now the only music television distributor in Germany. The same month, plans were announced to dispose of Viacom's interest in Blockbuster later that year by means of an exchange offer with exact terms to be announced.
In March 2005, Viacom announced plans of looking into splitting the company into two publically traded companies, amid issues of the stock price stagnating. One company, to be headed by Leslie Moonves, would include CBS, UPN, Infinity Broadcasting, Viacom Outdoor, and Paramount's Television Studio (which would make sense because Moonves' speciality is television). These businesses were catagorized as the "slow growth businesses" because while they provided steady cash flow, they don't have any growth potential. Some analysts say that these businesses are suffocating the growth of the MTV Networks cable businesses.
The other company, to be headed by Tom Freston would be comprised of MTV Networks, BET Networks, Showtime Networks, Paramount's Movie Studio, and Simon & Schuster. These businesses are catagorized as the high-growth businesses (MTV Networks, BET Network and Showtime Networks, in particular), and if they were split into a separate company, it could infuse new funds/capital to allow for future acquisitions and expansion.
Sumner Redstone would still control 71 percent of the voting stock of both companies and would be the chairman of both companies.
Main article: List of assets owned by Viacom
- Infinity Broadcasting (owns and operates over 180 stations)
- MTVi Group
- CBS Internet Group
- MarketWatch.com (25%)
- Nickelodeon Online
- Contentville.com (35%)
- Radiomat.com (Streams twelve all-news Infinity stations)
Film Production and Distribution
Advertising & Merchandising
- Viacom Consumer Products
- Infinity Outdoor (Billboards)
- Famous Music
- United Cinemas International (joint venture with Vivendi)
- Paramount Theaters
- Famous Players Canada
- Showcase Cinemas
- MTV Networks
- MTV Jams
- MTV Hits
- MTV Base UK
- TMF UK
- TMF NL
- MTV Dance UK
- MTV Espaņol
- Paramount Comedy Channel UK
- Paramount2 UK
- TV Land
- Country Music Television (CMT)
- Spike TV
- VH1 Classic
- VH1 Country
- VH1 Soul
- VH Uno
- Comedy Central
- Showtime Networks
- SET Pay-Per-View (sporting and entertainment events)
Television Production and Distribution
- Paramount Television
- Spelling Entertainment Group (80%)
- Big Ticket Television
- Viacom Productions
- King World Productions
- Blockbuster Video - Sells and rents video games and movies.
- Paramount Parks - A collection of theme parks in the United States and Canada
- Facts page at the Viacom website
- Ketupa.net - Viacom
- Viacom information by Hoover's
- Viacom profile by Yahoo!
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