Viacom & CBS’ Latest Reunion Sets Different Course For Companies’ Flagship TV Studios Than 1999 Merger

Viacom & CBS’ Latest Reunion Sets Different Course For Companies’ Flagship TV Studios Than 1999 Merger

When Viacom and CBS rejoined the last time, following Viacom’s 1999 acquisition of CBS, the reunion brought together two TV studios, the Viacom-owned Paramount Network Television, a major supplier to all networks with a deep library, and CBS’ smaller CBS Productions, the in-house production arm of the CBS network.

CBS TV Studios

By 2004, the studios had merged into CBS Paramount Network Television. Two years later, Viacom and CBS split again, with CBS Paramount Network Television staying with CBS Corp. It was eventually rebranded as CBS Television Studios. The studio remains a main supplier to CBS and the CW (as well as streaming platform CBS All Access) but has also branched out, producing for outside cable and streaming networks. CBS TV Studios has more than 75 series on the air, including the upcoming 68 Whiskey for new corporate sibling Paramount Network.

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In 2013, Paramount Pictures, then led by Brad Grey, a former TV executive and producer, launched a TV division, Paramount Television. Over the past six years, it has build a solid cable/streaming business with about 10 series currently on the air.

While the history repeated itself with Viacom and CBS getting back together, the two companies are following a different script for their flagship TV studios this time around. According to multiple sources, the current plan is for CBS TV Studios and Paramount Television to continue to operate independently.

It’s also status quo for the several in-house studios on both sides of the CBS-Viacom union, Showtime’s production arm, which makes shows for the premium network, and the recently launched MTV Studios and Comedy Central Prods. units focused largely on mining the Viacom networks’ IP to produce shows for outside buyers.

Sitting among the TV assets of the newly merged company is Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment. In an innovative deal, CBS Corp. in early 2017 acquired 50% of Kaplan’s independent production company. Kaplan retained full operation control over Kapital Entertainment, including deciding where to sell his shows.

Kapital has 10 series on the air, half of them on CBS-affiliated networks: CBS, where the company has emerged as a leading supplier, Showtime and CBS All Access. All pilots to date, on which Kapital has served as a studio, have gone to series.

According to sources, the Viacom-CBS merger has not impacted the Kapital-CBS Corp. deal. Still, the five-year agreement with Kaplan was made in a different business environment. Amid the major corporate changes at CBS, and with two years left on Kaplan’s deal, there has been chatter about potential suitors kicking the tires on the prolific indie studio.