Redstone Predicts More Corporate 'Divorces'

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Viacom and CBS Chairman Sumner Redstone, speaking Tuesday night at a Museum of Television & Radio event in Beverly Hills, encouraged competition between the two companies and his top lieutenants, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves and the new Viacom CEO Tom Freston. Whether in television, film or elsewhere, Redstone acknowledged there could be substantial crossover.

“It is inevitable that the two will compete,” Redstone said. “They have the absolute right to compete, and they will. The deal is such that they can go anywhere they want to go as long as they don’t put the other one out of business. So you will see a lot of competition.”

Redstone, who said neither Moonves nor Freston make a major move without calling him first, expects the new Viacom to grow quickly, thanks in part to the recent acquisition of Dreamworks, but he also sees growth potential for CBS.

“Anyone who thinks that the CBS company is not going to grow, doesn’t know what they are talking about,” Redstone said. “Maybe not as fast as the new Viacom, but it will grow.”

And on the subject of companies splitting, Redstone said he expects to see more ahead.

“As I’ve said before, the age of the conglomerate is over. I’ve also said, as some of my friends know, divorce is sometimes better than marriage. Not every company has the assets to divide as we did, so it will depend on the nature of the company. More divorces are coming.”

Redstone also said the companies will be active in the Internet space, having been previously “underinvested in the Web.” But he also joked that he may not open the purse strings as much as his News Corp. counterpart, Rupert Murdoch: “He pays a little more than we’d be willing to pay. Rupert always makes it work. This is not a criticism, but he’s an overpayer.”

Redstone was also cautiously optimistic about the move toward delivering content to mobile devices.

“They won’t dominate, but they will certainly be important,” he said. “What works on a big screen won’t work on a cellphone.”

Redstone also spoke about courting the Hispanic market, which he says they will do via current assets as opposed to acquisition.

“We did bid on Telemundo, and we were outbid, fortunately, because they are losing money,” he said. “We have talked to Univision many times. But today we couldn’t buy Univision for a number of reasons, both technical and otherwise. So our strategy is simple: Do it with our own networks.”

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