ViacomCBS said it will replace its current chief financial officer with a veteran with experience managing businesses at Amazon and Pandora, the latest sign of how new dependence on streaming media and mobile devices is upending the operations of traditional media conglomerates.
Christine Spade, who had been the CFO of the Showtime cable operation before taking the role at its parent corporation, will step down from her position after ViacomCBS reports second-quarter earnings. She is expected to “transition into an advisory role” with the company. Spade, who was named to the role in 2018 after former CBS CEO Joe Ianniello made her CFO of that company, will be replaced by Naveen Chopra, who had been working as CFO of Amazon’s devices and services operations.
The move comes as ViacomCBS is poised to wade more deeply into Hollywood’s streaming wars, with CEO Bob Baskish articulating in recent talks with investors a strategy to augment the company’s “CBS All Acess” subscription-video hub with a wider array of content from some of the company’s cable networks. ViacomCBS is also working to burnish its ad-supported streaming outlet Pluto, which it purchased in 2019 for $340 million.
“Naveen is a talented leader who combines financial, strategic and operational expertise with hands-on experience growing innovative, consumer-focused businesses across the media and tech sector,” said Bakish, in a prepared statement. “His experience scaling and driving the financial strategies for growth businesses – including free ad-supported and subscription streaming, as well as with digital devices and services – will be instrumental as we continue to unlock the value of our assets.”
Bakish added, “I am grateful to Chris for her many contributions to ViacomCBS, including her two decades at Showtime and CBS and the pivotal role she played in the integration of CBS and Viacom. I want to extend my deepest thanks to her for her leadership and counsel, and for helping to ensure a smooth transition.”
Chopra has a strong background in modern media businesses, which thrive not only on the creation of content but also on distributing it to personal screens and through various windows of availability. At Amazon, he supervised financial operations for some of that company’s most interesting operations, including Alexa, Echo, Fire TV, Ring, Kindle and the Amazon Appstore. Before that, Chopra was CFO of audio-streaming service Pandora, where he also served for a period as an interim CFO. He has also worked as a CFO and interim CFO at TiVo, where he was involved in the sale of that company to Rovi Corp.
Bakish and Spade had established a good working relationship, according to a person familiar with the matter, and senior executives credit her with helping to integration financial oversight operations from Viacom and CBS, leading a recent bond offering and working to steer the company through the coronavirus pandemic. But Chopra’s experience dovetailed more readily with ViacomCBS’ new strategy, this person indicated.
“I look forward to working closely with Bob and the team to apply my experiences across consumer products and services, streaming and digital advertising to help write the next chapter of this amazing company,” Chopra said in a statement.