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Viacom Makes It Official: Bob Bakish Named Permanent CEO

Bob Bakish passed the audition process.

Viacom said Monday that it had named Bakish, who had been working as its interim chief executive, to the position on a permanent basis, offering a new direction for the troubled media company, which has seen its stock price slide as its MTV network and Paramount movie studio have underperformed.

Bakish’s role has become more solid in the wake of a decision by Viacom’s controlling shareholder, National Amusements Inc., to discontinue an exploration of combining the company with its other major holding, CBS Corp. Bakish will serve as president and CEO. He was named acting CEO on November 15.

“I am very excited by the strategy Viacom is pursuing under Bob’s leadership, as well as the relentless hard work and passion he has demonstrated not only in his fast start at the helm but in his many years at the company,'” said Shari Redstone, president of National Amusements, in a prepared statement. “While there is much work to do, I firmly believe that Viacom has a bright future, and that confidence is underpinned by senior management’s commitment to innovation and a more coordinated, global approach to managing our brands.”

Bakish has served as an executive at Viacom since 1997, most recently working as president and CEO of the company’s international cable networks.

He faces the same challenges his predecessors, Philippe Dauman and Tom Dooley, did, and it’s not immediately clear he can do what they could not in significant enough fashion to right the company. Viacom has been hit hard by the rise of digital media, which has destabilized the businesses on which it heavily depends: advertising and cable distribution. MTV is on its third top executive in less than two years, and Comedy Central has seen the power of its late-night lineup dissipate in the wake of the departures of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

The executive has told investors he intends to focus on improving MTV, arguably Viacom’s best known asset, as well as Comedy Central and the company’s Paramount movie studio. These operations have fallen on tough times. The young viewers who from the base of both cable networks are migrating to new digital-viewing behaviors that are harder to monetize, and Paramount has slumped noticeably amid a sea of tepid-received releases, including sequels to “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and the Ben Stiller vehicle “Zoolander.”

“In Bob’s short time as acting President and CEO he has impressed the Board of Directors with the decisive steps he has taken. He has moved quickly to deliver upon the mandate given to him – to maximize Viacom’s potential as a strong, growing and independent company,” said Tom May, Viacom’s chairman, in a prepared statement. “We have great confidence in Bob’s strategic vision and his ability to move forward aggressively to position Viacom for the future.”

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