Viacom is an international media conglomerate. The companies owned by Viacom touch virtually every major segment of the media industry. 81-year-old Sumner Redstone is Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer. The offices of President and Chief Operating Officer are jointly held by 58-year-old Tom Freston and 53-year-old Leslie Moonves, who had headed the MTV Networks and CBS units respectively.
In June 2005, Viacom announced that it would split itself into two independent companies. The current Viacom Inc. will be renamed CBS Corporation and will be headed by Moonves. CBS will hold Viacom's broadcasting, publishing, and television production assets, as well as Paramount Parks and Showtime Networks. Shares in a new Viacom Inc. will then be distributed to current Viacom shareholders. The new Viacom will be headed solely by Freston and include Paramount Pictures, MTV Networks and BET. Redstone will remain the Chairman and majority shareholder of both companies. Further details are included in an SEC filing (Form S-4) from October 5, 2005.
Viacom began life as CBS Films, the television syndication division of CBS. In 1971, the division was renamed VIACOM (Video & Audio Communications), and in 1973 it was spun off, amid new FCC rules forbidding television networks from owning syndication companies (the rules were later repealed).
Viacom made large amounts of money during the 1970s and 1980s distributing old CBS classics to syndication, including such landmark shows as I Love Lucy, The Andy Griffith Show and All in the Family (which was later owned by Embassy/Columbia Pictures Television, now called Sony Pictures Television). They also syndicated shows for others, the biggest examples being The Cosby Show and Roseanne (which were produced by Carsey-Werner Productions; Carsey-Werner eventually got big enough to distribute their own shows, mainly because of the success of these two). Viacom also syndicated the Nickelodeon game shows Double Dare and Finders Keepers.
In 1985, Viacom bought Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment, which owned MTV and Nickelodeon, renaming the company MTV Networks. Viacom also received Showtime Networks, Inc. (which included Showtime and The Movie Channel), which has retained its original name, Showtime Networks, Inc. In 1986, Viacom was bought by movie theater owner National Amusements, which brought Sumner Redstone to the company. Redstone made a string of large acquisitions in the early 1990s, announcing plans to buy Paramount Communications, parent of Paramount Pictures, in 1993, and buying the Blockbuster Video chain in 1994.
The Blockbuster acquisition gave Viacom access to large television holdings controlled by Aaron Spelling's company, Spelling Entertainment; along with his own productions (such as The Love Boat and Beverly Hills 90210), Spelling controlled the pre-1973 ABC and NBC back catalogs by way of Worldvision Enterprises and Republic Pictures. After these acquisitions, Viacom owned many movie and television production and syndication units, which were slowly integrated into Paramount; many TV shows previously distributed by Viacom, Republic or Worldvision have since gained Paramount closing logos.
In 1999, Viacom made what has been its biggest acquisition so far, by announcing plans to buy its former parent CBS. The merger was approved in 2000, bringing cable channels TNN (now Spike TV) and Country Music Television (CMT) under Viacom's wing, as well as CBS's production units and TV syndicators Eyemark (formerly Group W) and King World. As of this writing, CBS's production unit and King World (which has since absorbed Eyemark) are operating under their own names, as parts of CBS, and no attempt has been made thus far to move them around in Viacom's corporate structure; however, TNN and CMT were merged into MTV Networks almost immediately.
In 2001, Viacom completed its purchase of Black Entertainment Television (BET). As with TNN and CMT, it was immediately integrated into MTV Networks, causing some outcry among BET workers in the Washington, DC area (where BET was based before the merger). As a result, BET was de-integrated from MTV Networks.
Although a majority economic interest in Viacom is held by independent shareholders, the Redstone family maintains 71% voting control of the company through National Amusements' holdings of Viacom's class A stock.
In 2002, Viacom bought independently-run music channel 'TMF,' which at the time was broadcasting in Belgium and Holland. In June 2004, Viacom bought the German VIVA Media AG, the German equivalent to MTV. Therefore, Viacom is now the only music television distributor in Germany. The same month, plans were announced to dispose of Viacom's interest in Blockbuster later that year by means of an exchange offer with exact terms to be announced. In June of 2003 Sega announced that they would sell all Sonic The Hedgehog trademarks to Viacom.
In March 2005, Viacom announced plans of looking into splitting the company into two publicly traded companies, amid issues of the stock price stagnating. One company, to be headed by Leslie Moonves, would include CBS, UPN, Infinity Broadcasting, Viacom Outdoor, Showtime Networks, and Paramount's Television Studio (which would make sense because Moonves' specialty is television). These businesses were catagorized as the "slow growth businesses" because while they provided steady cash flow, they don't have any growth potential. Some analysts say that these businesses are suffocating the growth of the MTV Networks cable businesses. The company will assume the moniker of CBS Corporation.
The other company, which would keep the Viacom name, will be headed by Tom Freston, and will be comprised of MTV Networks, BET Networks, Paramount's Movie Studio, and Paramount Pictures' home entertainment operations. These businesses are categorized as the high-growth businesses (MTV Networks and BET Networks in particular), and if they were split into a separate company, it could infuse new funds/capital to allow for future acquisitions and expansion. Sumner Redstone will still control 71 percent of the voting stock of both companies and will be the chairman of both companies. The company split was approved by the Viacom board on June 14, 2005.
On December 2, 2004 Viacom acquired KOVR-TV in Sacramento, from Sinclair Broadcast Group. Viacom also acquired two stations in West Palm Beach. During 2005 it has announced it would sell several other non-duopoly UPN affiliates, in Indianapolis, Columbus, New Orleans, and Oklahoma City with possibilities of additional sales. In June 2005, Viacom announced that it has purchased Neopets, a virtual pet website.
Besides being a mega-media firm, Viacom is also known for its production logos, in that some people have reportedly been traumatized by its massive TV closing logo's icon of a fancy-cut "V" (which was described as mountainous), leading it to get the nickname "The V of Doom" (also known as the Purple V of Death). It usually rivals other closing logos such as Screen Gems's S from Hell as one of the scariest production logos ever made.
The "V of Doom" ran from late 1976 to 1986 (it can still be seen at the end of old prints of classic CBS shows like "I Love Lucy", since some newer copies of these shows may replace it with the Paramount Television logo). It starts with the phrase "A Viacom Presentation" zooming in from the center of the screen at a very fast pace. Then, a fancy-cut, purple V comes from the center and moves gradually closer and closer to the screen, with the V taking up most of the screen. The music was a 5-note synthesized horn section with a timpani drum crescending throughout. Even after the logo fades away, the kettledrum's echo can still be heard. There are reports that a version of this logo exists that replaces this infamous music with the "pinball music" from the first Viacom logo (of which more information is found below). There was, however a "Turbo-Speed" version of the V of Doom, in which the music and V play at a faster pace. There is also a filmed version of this logo, with the animation being slow and choppy, compared to the original, videotaped version. This version is called the "Film-O-Vision V of Doom".
A network television version usually had the V and the name "Viacom" zooming in together. This was found (for one) on the made-for-TV movie production of Dear Detective. This variant usually incorporated a show's closing theme rather than the regular, dreaded synth/drum music.
Because of the way the music and V jam on the screen, and because the audio quality wasn't good, the V of Doom produced nightmares for some people, while leaving others with bad memories.
Other Viacom logos
The V*IA*COM Pinball
The "V of Doom" replaced the original "pinball" logo that had been used from 1971 to late 1976. This logo starts with the syllables of "viacom" (in lower case) appearing one at a time rapid fire, one for each of the three notes of the jingle's first part. The screen also changes color, from red to green and then violet. After the word is completed, the screen scrolls back to reveal the words "a viacom presentation" (the words in the Peignot font) on a blue screen. A final note holds until the jingle's conclusion.
This logo recieved its nickname because many have described the music as sounding like those produced by pinball machines. Consequently, viewers have also reportedly been traumatized by this logo, although to a much lesser extent than the "V of Doom".
In 1986, Viacom finally replaced the "V of Doom" with a CGI-produced closing logo. While the fancy-cut V itself remained the same, it was given a silvery look and rotated along a purple gradient background, while the music was changed to a THX-influenced synthesized jingle. This new logo was more tolerable with the viewers than the previous logos. It lasted until January 1990, when Viacom unveiled its current corporate logo.
In 1985, the TV Network version of the "V of Doom" was replaced by a still image of the fancy-cut V in pale blue set on a black background, with the Viacom name in white, placed below the V with no music playing through it. (thus this combo was nicknamed the "V of Steel" or the "Silver V"). This was the closing logo used at the end of TV shows such as Matlock, and made-for-TV movie specials such as Return to Mayberry as well as the first twelve made-for-TV movie adaptations of Perry Mason. This was also used until January 1990, when it was replaced by the version of the Wigga Wigga with the word "PRODUCTIONS" added below in 1995. In 1999, Viacom unveiled a new logo, with the company trademark name in purple on a purple background with the word "PRODUCTIONS" (by now, Viacom was a production company only. Its syndication operations was reincorporated into Paramount Domestic Television in 1995). and the byline "a Paramount company" nicknaming it "The Splitting Letters" and "Viacom 2000". This was Viacom's last logo as its production operations was also absorbed into Paramount Television in 2004.
Today the Viacom name lives on as the mega-media company that owns Parmount Pictures, MTV & (for the time being) former parent company CBS.
Current members of the board of directors of Viacom are: George Abrams, David Andelman, Joseph Califano, Jr., William Cohen, Philippe Dauman, Alan Greenberg, Charles Phillips, Shari Redstone, Sumner Redstone, Frederic Salerno, William Schwartz, and Robert D. Walter.
This is a summary of the main Viacom divisions. For detailed assets see List of assets owned by Viacom.
- Radio: Infinity Broadcasting
- Film Production and Distribution: Paramount Pictures
- Outdoor Advertising: Viacom Outdoor
- Publishing: Simon & Schuster
- Production and Distribution
- Viacom website
- Ketupa.net - Viacom
- Viacom information by Hoover's
- Viacom profile by Yahoo!
- Viacom themes, a YTMND of Viacom's closing logo themes (The V of Doom's is the second one).