×

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish: Mobile Will Be a Catalyst for the TV Industry

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish isn’t ready to celebrate victory just yet. “I wouldn’t ever say mission accomplished, and certainly not in the changing world we are living in,” Bakish said during his keynote conversation at Variety’s CES Summit Wednesday.

That’s despite the fact that Bakish has overcome quite a few challenges since taking over the helm of the media company in late 2016. “The company was in the need of a turn-around,” he recalled. Two years ago, Paramount lost a whopping $0.5 billion, and Viacom was struggling on other fronts as well.

Two years in, the company’s movie business is doing a lot better. “Paramount is in a fundamentally better place,” he said. This is also manifesting itself in the bottom line: “We’ve had seven straight quarters of earnings improvement,” Bakish said.

So what’s next for Viacom? A major merger perhaps, possibly the long-rumored partnership with CBS? Bakish seemed dismissive. “Our plan is fundamentally based on the assets we have,” he said. “We don’t need a transformational deal.” Instead, Viacom was focusing on smaller deals through acquisitions of companies like Vidcon and Awesomeness.

Instead of merging to compete, Viacom is looking to diversify its distribution. “We are active in the OTT space,” he said. “We are also active in the SVOD space through our third-party production business.” A growing part of this strategy will be to lean into mobile, said Bakish. “Mobile distribution really is the catalyst that will turn this whole decline of television argument on its head.”

One of the factors that will drive mobile forward will be 5G, but Bakish also looked further ahead to driverless, 5G-connected cars. “The last vestige of video-free consumption is the automobile,” he said. In the future, cars could add many more viewing minutes, just like the bedroom TV did many years ago. “That’s coming,” quipped Bakish.

Bakish added that the company was also looking to strike new distribution deals, including its partnership with Facebook to stream MTV shows, to keep the company’s brands “top of mind” for consumers.

And finally, Bakish also hailed the new platforms as a frontier for advanced advertising, calling out Dish and Sling TV as examples. Dish was still mostly serving up ads the traditional way, whereas Sling’s ad business is a lot more targeted. “All the Sling ads are dynamic,” he said.

More Digital

  • Crackle Latin America

    Sony Shuts Down Crackle Latin America Business

    Sony Pictures Television is folding the Crackle Latin America subscription VOD service, which has 400,000 subscribers across 17 countries, after concluding the business isn’t economically viable. Crackle Latin America first launched in April 2012 as an ad-supported streaming service — like the U.S. version of Crackle — before switching in 2016 to a subscription video-on-demand [...]

  • Google Home entryway

    NPR Has Turned 'Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me' Into a Game for Smart Speakers

    NPR has turned its popular “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” news quiz show into an interactive game for smart speakers: Owners of speakers powered by Google’s Assistant or Amazon Alexa will be able to play along to questions about the news of the week. Just like the radio show, the quiz is being hosted by [...]

  • WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01

    BritBox Subscribers Hit Half a Million

    The number of subscribers to BritBox has hit 500,000, the streaming service said Thursday. The platform, launched as a collaboration between BBC Studios and ITV, is designed to offer U.S. and Canadian viewers the best of recent and classic British television content. The streaming service launched in the U.S. in March 2017 with a host of [...]

  • Andy Yeatman - Moonbug

    Andy Yeatman, Former Netflix Head of Kids Content, Lands at Startup Moonbug (EXCLUSIVE)

    Andy Yeatman has joined children’s entertainment startup Moonbug Entertainment to oversee North America operations, after he exited Netflix a little over a year ago. Moonbug, dual-headquartered in London and L.A., has set out on a mission to acquire “fun and safe” kids’ entertainment properties and develop new content and businesses based on them. Yeatman, as head [...]

  • Sony Innovation Fund Invests in Location

    Sony Invests in Geolocation Startup Used to Shoot ‘Ready Player One’

    Sony’s venture capital arm, the Sony Innovation Fund, has invested in London-based What3words, a geolocation startup that aims to provide human-readable and easily shareable names for each and every location on the planet. What3words was previously used to share locations for the production of Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One,” and has also had cameos in [...]

  • Netflix and Amazon on Different Sides

    Netflix and Amazon Take Different Sides on Content Regulation in India

    Netflix and other leading streaming video platforms have signed an agreement to self-regulate content in the booming Indian market. But Amazon and Facebook are so far sitting out. The new “Code of Best Practices for Online Curated Content Providers,” created by the Internet and Mobile Assn. of India, has been signed by Netflix, Hotstar, Sony Liv, [...]

  • A view of the SK Telecom

    Korean OTT Players, SK Telecom Join Forces to Compete Against Netflix

    South Korea’s three major broadcasters KBS, MBC and SBS have joined forces with the country’s leading telecom firm, SK Telecom, to launch a new video streaming platform. The move is regarded as a defensive reaction against the growing influence of foreign competitors, lead by Netflix. The broadcasters already jointly own Pooq, with MBC and SBS [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content