Speaking at the annual UBS Global Media conference in New York Monday, Viacom’s new CEO Bob Bakish denied reports the company was interested in acquiring a stake in Vice, the digital media company.
A committee of Viacom’s directors is studying combining the company with CBS. Both companies are controlled by the family of Sumner Redstone.
Bakish didn’t comment on the progress of those discussions. “My Mandate from the board has been to drive Viacom's a strong, independent company,” he said. “My own view is , whether or not it happens, we ned to insure that Viacom is as strong as it can be and that’s what I’m focused on.”
Viacom has been through a turbulent year, with the Redstone family pushing out CEO Philippe Dauman. Its cable networks have been losing revenue and its movie studio, Paramount had a terrible year.
Bakish tried to emphasize the positive. “Lost in the drama of the last 18 months is just what an incredible company Viacom is,” he said, with many iconic assets.
“Truth be told, they’re not all operating at their peak,” he said. “Truth be told, they’re not all operating at their peak.”
MTV he said was an obvious example of that, and a priority, he said. So was Comedy Central. Paramount as well.
Before he became CEO, Bakish, who was running Viacom’s international businesses, was consulted about changing leadership at MTV. Sean Atkins was replaced with Chris McCarthy, who also runs VH1.
Bakish predicted that MTV’s ratings would show improvement by March.
Viacom’s ad revenues have been shrinking, but Bakish said that was the result of shrinking ratings. He praised Viacom’s ad sales staff and called the company a leader in data-driven advertising. The ad market was healthy, he added. “We have a supply problem. Not a demand problem.”
Bakish said some of the companies problems could be helped by being more collaborative, both internally as well as with its distribution partners.
He said he’s already established a cross-company planning team at the company.
And he said he replaced the company’s top distribution executive in order to form more collaborative relationships with distributors.