Viacom merges CBS, Paramount world distribution

MUMBAI: Viacom is reorganising its international television distribution operations with the creation of CBS Paramount International Television - a new global television sales and distribution entity that will merge the significant resources of CBS Broadcast International and Paramount International Television. This was announced by Viacom co-president and co-chief operating officer Leslie Moonves.

Moonves was quoted in an official release as saying, "We are combining two outstanding operations to form one great entity that will make Viacom's international television sales business even stronger. This restructuring will help maximise our programming resources, efficiently streamline our overseas distribution and establish a programming pipeline that can have a huge impact in the global marketplace."

Moonves also announced that Armando Nunez Jr., formerly CBS Broadcast International president has been named president of the new combined organisation. Nunez will report to both CBS Enterprises and King World Productions CEO Roger King and Paramount Worldwide Television Distribution president Joel Berman.

Under King and Berman's leadership, Viacom's two domestic syndication companies -- King World Productions and Paramount Domestic Television -- collectively distribute six of the top 10 (and 10 of the top 20) shows in syndication. These domestic companies will continue to operate independently, Moonves stated.

"I've had the privilege to work with Armando the past five years and have known him even longer," Moonves added. "He is quite simply one of the most skilled and respected executives in our business with an unmatched passion for and knowledge of the international arena. I look forward to working with Armando, Roger and Joel as we chart a global course that successfully exploits our programming assets, delivers tremendous benefits to our worldwide customers and creates value for Viacom."

As part of the restructuring, international sales to free, over-the-air broadcast networks and those to pay cable and satellite services will be consolidated into the same management structure under Nunez. The newly formed international operation creates one of the most diverse and prolific pipelines of programming to the international television marketplace. The programming assets will include:

-- Paramount network and syndicated programming such as the Star Trek franchise, the Emmy Award-winning Frasier and the hit CBS drama JAG,

-- Feature films from Paramount Pictures including the recent releases The Manchurian Candidate and Collateral

-- CBS News and Entertainment programming such as Survivor, Everybody Loves Raymond, Late Show with David Letterman and 60 Minutes

-- King World syndicated programming Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!, The Oprah Winfrey Show and Dr. Phil

-- UPN's America's Next Top Model

-- Spelling Television series such as Charmed

-- The combined library of CBS and Paramount which features more than 60,000 hours of programming

In his new post, Nunez will assume oversight of all international distribution, sales and marketing for Viacom's network and syndicated programming assets, as well as Paramount's feature films and the CBS and Paramount television libraries. He will also direct their nine offices worldwide and manage the company's interests in joint ventures for movie channels in Asia, Australia, Brazil, India, and Latin America, as well as TV1, a series programming channel in Australia.

King said, "Armando is one of international television's most successful executives. He has been a key player in making CBS one of the top worldwide suppliers of US programming and sustaining King World International Productions position as a leader in international format sales and local productions. All of our programming assets will be served well with this new structure and Armando's expertise."

Berman on his part said, "This new structure gives added power to our already successful international operation. Paramount has always been a leading player in the global arena and this will position us to further expand a very important part of our business."

In connection with the restructuring, Gary Marenzi, who has served as president of Paramount International Television since 1997, will be leaving the company. Most recently, Marenzi brought Sky Television into a co-production with Viacom Productions on USA Network's summer hit -The 4400. Berman said, "Gary has been critical to the success of Paramount International Television. I consider him a true leader and a friend and have thoroughly enjoyed working with him since he joined Paramount in 1997. We are grateful for all of his contributions and wish him the best."

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