Viacom was created in 1971 as the television syndication division of CBS, and was spun off in 1971. However, in 1999, Viacom acquired its former parent, by this time also named CBS Corporation, formerly Westinghouse Electric. The prior CBS Corporation also owned CMT and The Nashville Network (now Paramount Network), which remained Viacom properties after the 2005 split, but the prior CBS did not own UPN, Showtime, Paramount Television, Paramount Parks, or Simon and Schuster.
In March 2005, Viacom announced plans of looking into splitting the company into two publicly traded companies, amid issues of the stock price stagnating (although it was alleged that another main force behind the split was the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy, which led to MTV not being allowed to produce any more halftime shows, they had also produced the show for Super Bowl XXXV, the first Super Bowl CBS aired since regaining NFL rights and becoming MTV's corporate sibling).
On June 14, 2005, the Viacom board of directors approved the split of the company into two firms. The CBS Corporation name would be revived for one of the companies, to be headed by longtime television executive (and Viacom co-President) Leslie Moonves, and would include CBS, UPN, Infinity Broadcasting, Viacom Outdoor, Showtime Networks, and Paramount's television studio.
The split was structured such that the new Viacom was spun off from the old Viacom, which was renamed CBS Corporation. In a sense, this was a repeat of the 1971 spinoff. However, in this case, CBS retained virtually all of the prior firm's broadcast TV assets, including its various syndication companies.
With the split, the two new companies began trading on the NYSE on January 3, 2006. Investors anticipated Viacom benefiting from the split, but instead, it dropped approximately 20 percent, while CBS rose 9 percent.
On January 24, 2006, CBS Corporation, and Warner Bros. announced that they were to create a new broadcast network, The CW Television Network. The network officially debuted on September 18, 2006. The network formally debuted on September 20 with the 2 hour premiere of America's Next Top Model. The network is the result of a merger of The WB (a Warner Bros. holding) and UPN (a CBS Corporation holding). CBS Corporation and Time Warner each own 50% of the network. Tribune Broadcasting (which previously owned a 25% stake on The WB) and CBS Corporation will contribute its stations as new network affiliates.
Three days after the announcement of The CW, on January 27, CBS announced that it was selling its Paramount Parks division. On May 23, 2006, CBS Corporation sold Paramount Parks to the Cedar Fair Entertainment Company. With this acquisition, Cedar Fair became the third-largest theme park operator. On June 30, 2006, Cedar Fair announced that it has completed its acquisition of Paramount Parks from CBS Corporation in a cash transaction valued at US$1.24 billion. The transaction included a 10-year license that allowed Cedar Fair to use the Paramount name in the parks through the 2017 season.
February 26: CBS announced that it will invest in Electric Sheep, which is a virtual world content developer. CBS hired Electric Sheep to develop some projects, including the creation of "The L-Word in Second Life". CBS also shot a commercial within the virtual world Second Life so to promote its show Two and a Half Men. Another project that Electric Sheep is working on for CBS is a Star Trek-themed area in Second Life. By investing in Electric Sheep, CBS hopes to expand its activity "beyond the living room".
March 20: CBS/CSTV announced it had acquired an online high school sports network, MaxPreps.
April 12: CBS Corporation announces the creation of the CBS Interactive Audience Network.
May 15: CBS Interactive announced that it had agreed to buy CNET Networks for $1.8 billion, with the deal due to close in the third quarter of 2008. During the July 2nd noon broadcast, KYW-TV, a CBS owned-and-operated station in Philadelphia, announced that its parent acquired CNET and was putting it under CBS Interactive.
February 14 CBS acquires a minority stake in AXS TV in exchange for programming and marketing.
May 31 CBS buys the remaining half of TV Guide Digital from Lionsgate. The latter still retains its share of TVGN.
July 16 CBS agreed to sell CBS Outdoor International to Platinum Equity for about $225M.
March 28 CBS Outdoor division begins trading as a separate company on the NYSE under "CBSO". CBS Outdoor would be fully divested from CBS by July into an independent real estate investment trust, renamed as Outfront Media.
February 2 CBS Corporation announces the sale of CBS Radio to Entercom, making that company the 2nd-largest owner of radio stations in the United States.
August 28 CBS Corporation announces the purchase of Australian broadcaster Network Ten. The network was previously in voluntary administration.
Possible re-merger with Viacom
On September 29, 2016, National Amusements sent a letter to both the company and Viacom, encouraging the two companies to merge back into one company. On December 12, the deal was called off. However, on January 12, 2018, CNBC reported that both companies re-entered talks to merge.
Possible acquisition of Lionsgate with Viacom
CBS Corporation and Viacom are in talks to acquire Lionsgate, along with Amazon and Verizon. This was reported at the same time as the CBS and Viacom re-merger talks. Lionsgate Vice Chairman Michael Burns has stated in an interview with CNBC that Lionsgate is mostly interested in merging with CBS and Viacom.
^The Viacom-CBS split was structured in such a way that the existing company (Viacom) changed its name to CBS Corporation, while the new Viacom is actually a newly founded spin-off company. For this reason, the newly rechristened CBS Corporation is actually the same company (Viacom) that was founded in 1986. The 1986 Viacom, in turn, was the successor to a previous company also known as Viacom and founded in 1971.
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