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ViacomCBS Bargaining Power: CEO Daily

Good morning.

Yesterday’s announcement of the merger of Viacom and CBS was anticlimactic. Recombining Sumner Redstone’s two media companies, which have been joined twice before in the past, has been talked about for so long that it was hard to remember it hadn’t already happened.

It also caused little excitement among media analysts. It’s hard to see how ViacomCBS, with its fledgling CBS All Access streaming service, can be a serious competitor in a battle with the likes of Netflix, Disney, Amazon, and Apple.

But it’s also hard to argue against it. By combining their content, the two media companies will clearly have more bargaining power with the giant platforms that carry that content. And as Fortune’s Aaron Pressman argues here, the merger could turn out to be bad news for Netflix. In its effort to compete in the streaming wars, ViacomCBS will have less incentive to license popular shows like NCIS and Madame Secretary, making Netflix’s content acquisition challenge even greater.

Shari Redstone celebrated the long-awaited merger of her father’s companies by saying “content is king.” That may overstate the case—distribution is still critical—but more good content at least gives the new company a stronger hand in what is shaping up to be a bruising battle.

Also this morning: bad economic news from China. Industrial production grew at the slowest rate in 17 years. Fear of further economic disruption may be one thing that’s holding back China from intervening in the Hong Kong protests.

More below.

Alan Murray


Tariff Suspension

Wall Street rallied yesterday as the U.S. suddenly suspended plans for the latest tranche of tariffs against Chinese imports. President Trump, who has regularly maintained that the tariffs are paid by China rather than U.S. businesses: “We’re doing this for Christmas season, just in case some of the tariffs would have an impact on U.S. customers.” Stock market volatility may have also played a role. Either way, it seems trade talks are back on. Wall Street Journal

Hong Kong

Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell have something in common: they’ve both been accused by China of trying to incite chaos in Hong Kong by commenting on the spiraling situation there. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying: “The U.S. denied on many occasions its involvement in the ongoing violent incidents in Hong Kong. However, the comments from those members of the U.S. Congress have provided the world with new and powerful evidence on the country’s involvement.” CNBC

Boeing Fallout

Norwegian Air is axing its Ireland-U.S. routes and is blaming the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max. The airline’s long-haul chief, Matthew Wood: “Since March, we have tirelessly sought to minimize the impact on our customers by hiring replacement aircraft to operate services between Ireland and North America. However, as the return to service date for the 737 Max remains uncertain, this solution is unsustainable.” BBC

German Contraction

The German economy shrank last quarter by 0.1%, thanks to slower exports. Analysts say Brexit, the U.S.-China trade war, and the possibility of fresh U.S. tariffs on European car exports are all factors. Reuters


Proactive Twitter

Twitter is keen to stress that it’s proactively policing its service these days rather than just reacting to user complaints about harassment and so on. It has tripled its tally of tweet-monitoring workers to 1,500 around the world, and is now grading them on how well they handle complaints, rather than how many complaints they handle. Fortune

MacBook Ejected

If you use a 15-inch MacBook Pro sold between September 2015 and February 2017, you may have trouble taking it on a plane in the U.S. Some of these machines have batteries that have been recalled due to posing a fire risk, and the Federal Aviation Administration now says they’re not welcome onboard. By way of contrast, the Europeans are just asking passengers not to turn them on. Bloomberg

Tax Testimony

Facebook, Google, and Amazon are among the companies that will testify at a U.S. government hearing about the new French tax on digital giants’ local revenues. The U.S. Trade Representative sees the tax as unreasonable. France isn’t the only one playing this game, though: in the absence of international tax rules that properly address the nature of such global firms, other European countries are also introducing such taxes. Reuters

Hickenlooper Out?

Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper may quit the race to become the Democratic presidential nominee next year. The New York Times reports he may instead run for the Senate—his local seat is currently Republican. NYT

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer. Find previous editions here, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters here.