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Viacom CEO Says New Paramount Chief Could Be Named In “Near Term”

Deadline logo Deadline 3/1/2017 David Lieberman
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Paramount could get a new chief “in the near term,” Viacom CEO Bob Bakish told an investor gathering today adding that he has met with several “exciting” candidates who might replace Brad Grey — who departed last month.

While he didn’t offer specifics, the CEO says the studio “has great potential and I’m excited by the prospects. We have some work to do, and we’ll get it done.”

In the presentation at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference Bakish pretty much trashed Philippe Dauman even though he didn’t mention his predecessor by name.

“The organization really wasn’t connected at all” under the old regime, Bakish says. “We had planted a lot of flags but didn’t have a robust business.”

He called the U.S. cable channels “a confederation of independent businesses” and said that Paramount was “run as an island.”

Bakish wants that to change with a strategy, presented last month, to focus the company and its resources on what he calls his six flagship brands: BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., and Paramount. Among other things, the channels will co-develop movies and TV shows with the studio.

“It’s about a return to growth,” he says. “It’s about leveraging places where we have strength.”

The CEO “very quickly” changed management at MTV — Chris McCarthy replaced Sean Atkins as president in October — which Bakish says was “long overdue.”

He also aligned Spike, TV Land, CMT noting that although “none of them have critical mass” each was “allowed to dabble in scripted programming” which he says was “symptomatic of how the company was run.”

Spike will be rebranded as The Paramount Network in early 2018. Although Paramount is “not totally a consumer brand, particularly in the U.S.,” the name resonated overseas where Viacom offers a service called the Paramount Network.

And Spike’s name had to go for the company to convert the service into a general entertainment network. Spike had “built a strong position as a male skewing, action oriented network.”

Bakish talked up Nickelodeon, which he says is “firing on all cylinders” while a few years ago “you’d say it was all based on SpongeBob and Dora.”

Viacom will look more carefully at deals to license its hits to digital services — which critics say provided bursts of cash at the expense of long term growth.

“You may have noticed that The Daily Show is not available on SVOD as of a few weeks ago,” Bakish says. That was “a deliberate decision.”

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