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Viacom Merges TV Sales, Distribution Units

Aug 10, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Viacom announced Tuesday it has formed CBS Paramount International Television by merging the company’s two television sales and distribution entities: CBS Broadcast International and Paramount International Television.

The merger is a big win for former CBS Broadcast International President Armando Nuñez Jr., who has been named to head the new division. Gary Marenzi, who has run Paramount International Television since 1997, will leave the company.

“This clearly was an obvious move to make,” Leslie Moonves, Viacom co-president and co-chief operating officer, told TelevisionWeek. “This was the most obvious redundancy in the company.”

Mr. Moonves was quick to point out that Viacom’s domestic syndication arms, CBS Enterprises (which includes King World Productions) and Paramount Domestic Television Distribution, would not merge anytime soon.

“Domestically they will stay totally autonomous,” he said. “We have two unbelievably successful domestic syndication companies. This is a case where it would be silly to merge them.”

Mr. Moonves said it was “way too early” to discuss the merger of any other Viacom companies.

Sources say there are plenty of reasons why domestic distribution at CBS and Paramount should stay apart, the biggest being a clause that would allow syndication rights for “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to revert to Harpo Productions, and “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” rights to revert to Sony Pictures Television.

The merge combines the international television distribution of Paramount network programming, including the “Star Trek” franchise and “Frasier” along with first-run syndicated programming out of the King World universe, which includes “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Dr. Phil” and “Jeopardy!” The new company will also internationally distribute product from Spelling Television, the CBS network and films from the Paramount Pictures library.

“Obviously this is about putting together on the programming side some well-known and legendary assets,” Mr. Nuñez said in an interview with TVWeek, “and on the distribution side, putting together some very talented executives and involving an organization that has the best pipeline possible to the worldwide marketplace.”

Mr. Nuñez said he had not made any immediate decisions about changing the employment makeup of the company through consolidation.

“This is about putting together a group that has the potential for growth,” he said. “Are there efficiencies? The efficiencies will become apparent as we move forward. That will evolve.”

Mr. Nuñez also held off on talking about a new strategy for CBS Paramount International Television or whether the new division should be searching for new markets or bolstering sales within more mature territories.

“I have obviously a lot of thoughts in my head,” he said. “But it’s too early to get into that. It is a matter of maximizing the revenue pot from the larger markets in the world, and also seeing around the world where there is going to be growth, and where we should be planting seeds. I don’t think it is an either-or scenario.”