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Viacom appoints Bob Bakish as acting CEO

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MUMBAI: So Bob got the job after all. As expected, the board of directors at Viacom yesterday appointed Robert “Bob” Bakish as the acting president & CEO, effective 15 November – the date when the temporary replacement to Philippe Dauman, leaves the company. Bakish also got the additional charge of the Viacom Global Entertainment Group as its president & CEO.

This new business unit combines Viacom’s International Media Networks division with the company’s Music and Entertainment Group, which houses some of the company’s most iconic brands including MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, Spike and Logo. In addition, TV Land and CMT will join the Global Entertainment Group portfolio under him.

What this means is that the Indian company Viacom18 Media (its joint venture with Network18 group – now owned by Reliance Industries) will have a direct line to Bakish as it has been doing over the past nine years, ever since he took over the international media networks division. Viacom18 Media is headed by the group CEO Sudhanshu Vats.

A statement put out by Viacom states that Viacom’s Kids and Family Group will be re-established as the “Nickelodeon Group” to fully focus on building upon the success of the number one media network for kids, and exploit the broad array of growth opportunities in all facets of the kids segment, including recreation and hospitality. BET Networks, home of leading brands among African American adults, will continue to function as a dedicated and separate group.

Said Viacom board chairman Tom May in the release: “Bob’s record of innovation and achievement at Viacom, combined with his strategic vision and leadership ability, make him highly qualified for this position. We are determined to move forward aggressively to strengthen Viacom for the future, whether as a stand-alone company or in a potential combination with CBS. There is a great deal of opportunity ahead and Bob is a superb leader to drive this effort, fully empowered to take the actions necessary to position Viacom for success.”

Said Viacom vice chairman Shari Redstone: “To be a successful leader in the industry today requires continuous flexibility, a global perspective, a commitment to innovation and an embrace of change. Bob is an exemplary forward thinker who embodies these traits, embraces disruption and brings teams along with him. Under his leadership our great employees will be supported in their efforts to bring world class content and experiences to our audiences, while we continue to drive improvements in Viacom’s financial performance.”

“I look forward to working closely with the Board of Directors, senior management and our talented and hardworking people around the world to realize the full potential of Viacom’s outstanding assets for the benefit of our audiences, partners and stockholders,” added Bakish. “Content is the lifeblood of our business and my near-term focus will be to nurture our creative output and brands, ensuring they remain distinctive, differentiated and powerful in an increasingly competitive global media landscape.”

Bakish has been the president and CEO of Viacom International Media Networks, and its predecessor company MTV Networks International, since 2007, with oversight of all of Viacom’s media networks and related businesses outside the US. In this role, he has driven the development of its international portfolio of core TV brands, with MTV and Nickelodeon being joined by Comedy Central, Paramount Channel, BET, Spike and Nick Jr. on pay and free TV platforms worldwide. In addition, Bakish has overseen the creation and growth of the company’s Viacom18 Indian joint venture, which includes the Colors general entertainment networks, as well as the acquisition of Channel 5 in the U.K.

Under Bakish, the company has consistently grown profitability while expanding its TV, online and geographic footprint. Viacom’s 200 plus TV channels now reach approximately 3.9 billion cumulative television subscribers across more than 180 countries and broadcast in more than 40 languages. Bakish has also overseen the transition from TV to multiplatform distribution, with VIMN significantly growing online engagement with its video content, having launched a range of cutting edge digital properties including the Viacom Play Plex suite of mobile streaming apps that give on-demand access to the best TV content from its brands, all while building its branded presence on 3rd party video-on-demand and social media platforms, with an estimated 850 million fans and followers worldwide.

Bakish’s growth strategy for VIMN has also involved substantially increasing the amount of original programming produced by Viacom internationally, driven in part by the recently opened Viacom International Studios in Miami, and Channel 5 Productions in the UK. In addition, he has expanded the off-screen presence of VIMN's brands through live events, stores, theme parks and hotels.Bakish has delivered significant growth in some of the world’s most valuable media markets including established markets like the U.K., Italy and Spain, as well as higher growth markets such as India, Mexico, Brazil, China, Russia and Africa.

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