CBS Corp. (CBS) - Get Report shares edged higher in pre-market trading Wednesday following a report that suggested it is prepared to make a third attempt to combine with Viacom Inc. (VIAB) - Get Report following last year's ouster of longtime CEO Les Moonves.
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that CBS has held preliminary talks with Viacom, which was split from the broadcaster by Sumner Redstone in 2005, with an aim to merger to two groups in order to allow for better leverage in negotiations with advertisers in a media landscape that values scale over content. Viacom CEO Bob Bakish is said to be in "pole position" to lead the combined group, the Journal reported, although discussions are expected to be complicated by efforts to value each group in relation to the other.
CBS shares were marked 0.45% higher in pre-market trading Wednesday to indicate an opening bell price of $49.43 each. Viacom shares, which have gained around 7.5% so far this month, were marked 0.9% higher at $30.08 each. CBS and Viacom are controlled by National Amusements, which is owned by the Redstone family.
Last month, CNBC reported that Viacom was looking to start talks with CBS in mid-June their media companies including Walt Disney (DIS) - Get Report and AT&T (T) - Get Report joining forces to tap and expand their content libraries and compete with the likes of Netflix (NFLX) - Get Report and Amazon's (AMZN) - Get Report Prime Video service.
CBS has seen impressive subscriber growth to its CBS All Access and Showtime OTT offerings, both of which are likely to be anchors for Apple's AAPL upcoming AppleTV launch, but a merger with Viacom, which owns Comedy Central and MTV, would give it a wider breadth of content and a larger user base from which to bargain with advertizers.
Viacom and T-Mobile US (TMUS) - Get Report reached a "major" content agreement in April that would see channels such as MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central to be carried on mobile phones on the country's third largest wireless network. The pair said the deal will given both live linear feeds, as well as a broad range of on-demand content, to the carrier's 80 million customers.
Last year's ouster of longtime executive and CBS CEO Moonves, who resigned after more than two decades with the broadcaster amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct, is also seen as a potential driver for a renewed Viacom tie-up.
As part of the overall agreement to oust Moonves, National Amusements said it would delay any push to merge the two groups for at least two years, although other entities or investors were free to do the same.