By: Benyamin Davidsons
Shari Redstone, the matron of the ViacomCBS media empire, made quite an impression two weeks ago at the Allen & Co. media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. Reporters and attendees of the conference said she was “talking to everyone”. While it is normal for Wall Street leaders to interact and be social at such events, it seemed like this may have been more. As reported by the NY Post, some got the impression that it wasn’t just chitter chatter but rather a deal in the making. They speculate that ViacomCBS — one of the largest content providers— might be open for a sale or merger.
Sumner Redstone, the billionaire media mogul who created the empire, died last August at age 97. His daughter, a former corporate lawyer who worked for years in her father’s shadow, managed to gain control and oversaw the Viacom merge with CBS, following an ugly court battle. Former CBS chief Les Moonves had opposed the merger, suing Redstone. He ended up losing his job, not long after, over sexual harassment allegations. ViacomCBS’s portfolio includes CBS News, “60 Minutes,” Showtime, Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central and MTV. The company’s market value is roughly $26 billion.
As per the Post, it makes sense that Redstone would be on the lookout for a buyer. Though the company is already impressive, in a business which demands “scale” or size in order to obtain higher distribution fees, ad revenues and streaming customers, ViacomCBS now seems like a small fish in an ocean filled with sharks. By contrast, the newly combined Discovery-WarnerMedia has a market value of about $150 billion. Comcast — which now includes NBC and Universal Studios — is valued at $264 billion.
Netflix is worth some $235 billion, and Disney is valued at $326 billion. While Redstone’s company has decent scale and is doing well with new streaming services, it might still benefit from attaching itself to a bigger fish. “If someone offers [Redstone] a good deal of course she will listen,” one source told a reporter for the Post.
Among the many chat partners Redstone enjoyed at the Allen & Co., conference, one was Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. Reps for both Redstone and Roberts vehemently denied that there was any dealmaking. Still, it makes sense that Roberts would want to get back into the game after failing to scoop up WarnerMedia.
When questioned by The Post about her multiple conversations at the conference, Redstone replied, “I meet with everyone.” True enough, and there is no lack of potential buyers.