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Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
All the details on the HUGE ViacomCBS deal. Also: The Banana Splits screamfest! Plus: No more Inbetweeners.
Always Be Watching is written by the R-rated Dan Barrett
The Banana Splits movie was released digitally this week and will air on SyFy in the US in October. The New York Times took a look at the film that recontextualises the 70s kids show as an R-rated horror.
Executives at Blue Ribbon, who conceived the movie idea before commissioning the script and hiring a director, saw an opportunity in the original show’s ultra-mod design to draw upon the chic, lurid stylings of 1960s and ’70s Italian horror films from directors like Dario Argento and Mario Bava, said Girardi.
“Their films, and the saccharine, candy nature of kids’ television at the time, were garishly lit, with oversaturated colors on incredible sets,” he said. “There’s a corollary there, and that’s something we wanted to explore.”
The Viacom/CBS merger is now official with the new company taking on the name… wait for it…. ViacomCBS Inc. It’s a branding triumph.
CBS will acquire Viacom with an all-stock deal valued at $11.7 billion. Viacom CEO Bob Bakish will be the head of the combined organisation. Shari Redstone will be its Chairman.
Why the merger?
It is simple: It’s all about scale. Netflix changed the game by launching a global TV service with the volume of content that it has. Traditional media now need to match that scale to maintain viewers.
Fox couldn’t scale up to the required level easily, so Disney purchased the company which then took it to Netflix’s content scale. WarnerMedia is consolidating all of its content to work at Netflix scale with its soon to launch streaming service HBOMax.
But, is the newly-formed ViacomCBS large enough to take on Netflix? Not quite. Expect the new company to acquire another large content company sooner than later. Think: Discovery/Scripps, AMC Networks, Sony’s entertainment business, and Starz/Lionsgate.
What sort of scale are we talking about?
CBS and Viacom together have some 140,000 episodes of TV series and 3,600 film titles.
ViacomCBS asserted that its combined platforms account for 22% of all television viewing in the U.S., ahead of Comcast (18%) and Disney (14%).
ViacomCBS companies together have 750 TV series ordered to production.
The companies spent $13 billion during the past 12 months on content across CBS’ local and national platforms, Showtime, Viacom’s cable and international channels and Paramount Pictures.
Both companies have sought to expand their focus beyond the U.S. in recent years with Viacom’s acquisition of the U.K.’s Channel 5 and Argentina’s Telefe and CBS’ acquisition of Australia’s Network 10.
Recent moves into digital by CBS and Viacom individually actually gives the combined company a good foundation to work from. CBS has CBS All Access, while Viacom has Pluto TV. Through CBS All Access, the company can build it up as a premium content destination, with the depth of TV shows and movies from across the combined library.
But, where ViacomCBS have an added tool to work with is the recently acquired PlutoTV which is a really elegant way to merge together on-demand and linear TV services. Through PlutoTV, ViacomCBS can not only run a whole lot of cheap pop-up channels based around older content in its library, but it can also transmit CBS channels through the platform in addition to Viacom channels like Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, etc. That won’t happen overnight, but I’d expect ViacomCBS to make the most out of its linear services as the cable TV model of linear loses traction in the coming years.
What does this mean for Australia?
CBS own over-the-air broadcaster Channel 10. While I doubt much will change, my assumption is that it will open up opportunities for Viacom archive content to be broadcast. Older shows from Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, and TV Land, for example, plus it is possible that the company might use Australia as a test market for linear channel brand extensions - an MTV-branded music show on Saturday mornings for example.
Oh, and we might finally see TV drama Yellowstone in Australia.