Shares of the newly combined ViacomCBS were off in early trading, a sign that Wall Street continues to look for new signs of growth after two of the best-known names in entertainment merged to vie with bigger rivals.
Shares of the company’s new common stock were off 59 cents, or 1.38%, in late-morning trading on Thursday, falling to $42.53 per share. The company’s Class B common stock was off 48 cents per share, or 1.19%, falling to $40.29 per share.
The new company debuted publicly Thursday morning for the first time, with CEO Bob Bakish, “CBS This Morning” co-anchor Gayle King, late-night hosts Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah and the character SpongeBob Squarepants opening one of the stock exchanges. “This is a historic moment, and it comes at exactly the right time,” Bakish said in remarks released Thursday ” Demand has never been higher for content that engages, delights, and informs. And, that’s exactly what we deliver.”
Shari Redstone, who leads the controlling shareholder in ViacomCBS, the National Amusements movie-exhibition chain, has pressed for the merger, arguing that CBS and Viacom were on their own too small to compete with Walt Disney, newly enlarged by its acquisition of the bulk of Fox; Comcast, which owns a sizable cable business and NBCUniversal; and Silicon Valley giants like Apple, Amazon and Netflix, who are moving quickly into streaming-video entertainment.
The combined company will control the CBS television network; the Showtime pay-cable business; the Paramount movie studio; and the Nickelodeon and Comedy Central cable networks, among other properties. But the new conglomerate is also moving into new media realms, like streaming video. ViacomCBS also operates the Pluto ad-supported streaming service; CBSN, a streaming outlet devoted to CBS News; and CBS All Access, a subscription-video outlet for scripted programming.