CBS and Viacom are back together again as ViacomCBS

What you need to know

  • CBS and Viacom were once the same company. Then they split.
  • Now they're back together.
  • But they're still way smaller than Netflix and Disney and AT&T.

After all the rumors and wrangling and hand-holding and who knows what go into this sort of thing, CBS and Viacom — once part of the same company but were split apart some time ago — are back together. At its most basic level that means the broadcast network (that's CBS) has joined forces with the cable programmer (that's Viacom, and it's home to things like Comedy Central and MTV) and formed a new company called ViacomCBS.

So what does that mean for you? In the short-term, probably not a lot. We'd talk about Viacom around here from time to time because its channels were often a little hard to find on the various streaming services. That's changed a bit in recent months, though. CBS, for its part, has remained a broadcast network — but it's the streaming arm of CBS All Access that's caught all kinds of attention thanks to standout shows like Star Trek: Discovery, The Twilight Zone, and the upcoming Star Trek: Picard.

Neither company on its own was tiny. And combined, they sport more than $28 billion in revenue. Which isn't exactly small change. But it's still nowhere near as big as the really big players — Netflix and Disney and AT&T, to name but three. So this merger is important. But maybe not game-changing just yet.

ViacomCBS, in its press release announcing the merger, does lay out three things it will to to initiate more growth. And the first directly involves the sort of thing we deal with here.

Accelerate direct-to-consumer strategy. Together, the combined company will be positioned to accelerate and expand its direct-to-consumer strategy through its proven and diverse portfolio of both subscription and ad-supported offerings. These include CBS All Access and Showtime, which deliver premium, branded content live and on demand to millions of subscribers; Pluto TV, the leading free streaming TV service in the U.S.; and niche products such as CBSN, ET Live and Noggin. It also has an opportunity to expand globally by leveraging its existing strength in both subscription and ad-supported offerings, combined library, content production capabilities and international infrastructure.

In other words, Viacom now has access to CBS All Access, which already has prove to be a pretty stalwart streaming service. And we'll no doubt see the companies make even better use of Pluto TV — the ad-supported free streaming service Viacom bought earlier this year.

The two companies have a conference call this afternoon, so we'll have to see what else comes out of that.

Phil Nickinson