How Viacom Plans to Grow Again, As an Independent Company or Not

July 18, 2018, 12:09 AM UTC

The media industry is undergoing a wave of consolidation. AT&T recently acquired Time Warner (though the U.S. Justice Department appealed the deal earlier this month), and Disney and Comcast are engaged in a bidding war over 21st Century Fox.

Meanwhile, some investors are wondering if CBS and Viacom may once again merge following its split in 2005. Viacom CEO Robert Bakish said his plan to forge ahead as if his company will stay independent, by “making Viacom once again grow.”

“There are clearly challenges in the form of how consumers are accessing content, but the flip side of it is they are spending more time with content,” Bakish said at the annual Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. on Tuesday. “There’s an extraordinary opportunity to really unleash these great franchises to a consumer base,” he added, referencing the conglomerate’s wealth of entertainment properties, including Paramount Pictures.

“We used to live in a world where, essentially — at least speaking about the U.S. — everyone had access to the same product,” Bakish added. “Increasingly, we’re in a world that’s segmenting, where people have access to different product.

Bakish continued: “We need to have our brands and [intellectual property] represented in more places, such that when a consumer’s thinking about entertainment, they’ll think about a Nickelodeon, they’ll think about Comedy Central, they’ll think about MTV.”

He said he wants Viacom to repurpose existing franchises through different outlets, depending on the best fit. The company will continue to create entirely original content, he said, citing Paramount’s recent critical and commercial box office hit, A Quiet Place, but will equally invest in reinvigorating classic franchises like the soon-to-release Mission: Impossible — Fallout.

“Yesterday we announced that we’re taking the ‘Rugrats‘ franchise,” Bakish said. “We’re bringing that back in a new iteration, both for feature film and for episode video — i.e. television — and we’ll do a whole bunch of digital native stuff.”

Asked whether Viacom will be independent a year from now, Bakish said: “Who knows what the future will bring. My guess is, yes, we will be independent.”