Viacom has long been known for massive cable bundles and bloated channels, but as cable packages shrink, it’s becoming abundantly clear that pay television is a new frontier for all the major players. This is why the media giant has declared it will be narrowing its focus onto just six core channels: Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., MTV, Comedy Central, BET and Spike.
The Slimmer, Trimmer Viacom
Although reporting from The Wall Street Journal confirms that Viacom has no plans to shut down its other approximately two dozen channels, it is changing its strategy to cash in on the increasingly fragmented television market. Content may be developed first for the six main channels before being filtered into less popular channels, for example.
With a lighter channel load, Viacom is hoping to be more appealing to distributors. Currently, its portfolio is the most expensive of any channel bundle that doesn’t offer sports, making it difficult for the company to compete in a streamlined cable world. Restructuring has already begun to allow a more flexible approach to resource assignments.
A Cancelled Merger
All of this news comes on the tail of a cancelled merger between Viacom and CBS.
The Redstone Family’s holding company, National Amusements, Inc., controls both companies with a nearly 80 percent voting stake. Shari Redstone, daughter of media mogul Sumner Redstone, has risen to power within the business and seems to be heavily involved with some of the major changes at Viacom.
The younger Redstone and new CEO Bob Bakish are working with an overhauled board to mend Viacom’s troubled relationships with distributors, both in person and on paper. For example, when Redstone had a chance meeting with Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen at the CES trade show in Las Vegas this January, she made sure to turn it into a relationship rebuilding opportunity.
The slimmer, trimmer Viacom is not only interested in rebuilding strained relationships with distributors, but re-establishing trust with viewers. As a new digital distribution strategy comes together, fans will have more ways to access the cable content they want from the big six channels, and hopefully, the smaller ones, too. Viacom is still probing a wide range of media and marketing options and possibilities under its new leadership and within this new distributor-friendly focus.