ViacomCBS’ $1.85 billion sale of its CBS Studio Center lot — known in the industry as CBS Radford — represents the end of an era for the company, and a further shift away from physical properties by legacy entertainment companies as their streaming counterparts bulk up.
Last week’s deal with Hackman Capital Partners and Square Mile Capital Management, put into motion in the summer, is the final major divestiture of the Eye network’s real estate holdings, including the 25-acre Television City, which was sold to Hackman for $750 million in 2018, and its New York skyscraper known as “Black Rock,” purchased earlier this year by Harbor Group Intl. for $760 million.
CBS Radford wasn’t as iconic as Television City or Black Rock, but its Studio City-based lot (founded as the lot for Mack Sennett and then Republic Pictures and purchased by CBS in 1967) is known for being the home base over the years for some of the biggest sitcoms on TV, including “Gilligan’s Island,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Roseanne” and “Seinfeld,” as well as Westerns such as “Gunsmoke.”
For much of the 20th century, CBS’ L.A. headquarters was at Television City, the Fairfax District complex designed by architectural firm William Pereira and Charles Luckman and opened in 1952. But CBS Entertainment and CBS TV Studios shifted to the Radford lot in the late 2000s, along with owned-and-operated stations KCBS and KCAL, which had moved out of CBS’ Columbia Square facilities on Sunset.
CBS sold Columbia Square in 2003, and that complex was redeveloped in 2012. Coincidentally, Viacom — prior to its remerger with CBS — moved its West Coast operations (including MTV and Comedy Central) into one of those new buildings in 2014. And that’s now where CBS Entertainment, CBS TV Studios and CBS Media Ventures will move.
That makes it a homecoming of sorts. Built in 1938, Columbia Square is where CBS’ TV network offices were originally located, until Television City opened. Now, CBS staffs — which had been spread apart between TV City and Radford — will be reunited, right next to the network’s original L.A. home.
ViacomCBS isn’t completely out of real estate; it, of course, still owns the Paramount lot on Melrose, and it’s hard to imagine the company getting rid of that. In a memo to staff, CBS president-CEO George Cheeks says the sales are a necessary part of using those proceeds for “more best-in-class content.” Among the priorities for that: streaming.