CBS COO on Possibility of Merging With Viacom: "I Don't Know the Asset Well Enough"

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The notion of a re-merger of CBS and Viacom surfaced due to a power struggle at Viacom that pits Sumner Redstone against the latter company's CEO.

CBS COO Joseph Ianniello didn't dismiss the idea of CBS merging with Viacom when asked about the possibility at an investment conference Tuesday, but he added that he hasn't yet delved very deeply into the financials.  

If CBS were to acquire Viacom, it would be "no different than any other transaction," Ianniello said at Nomura's 2016 Media, Telecom & Internet Conference in New York.

"We have a strong independent board, we have a solid management team, headed by obviously Les (Moonves), and we would approach any acquisition — so this goes to any acquisition — with the same sort of discipline."

The notion of a re-merger of CBS and Viacom surfaced due to a power struggle at Viacom that pits Sumner Redstone against the latter company's CEO, Philippe Dauman, who claims 93-year-old Redstone is incapable of rational decisions.  Both companies are controlled by Redstone via his ownership of the majority of the voting shares of each.

"Time has proven that we've shown to be disciplined," Ianniello said Tuesday. "I don't know the asset well enough. It's been over a decade since we were there, so I haven't studied it...that's what we would assess with these x-number of cable channels: what do the contracts look like, what are the programming commitments?"

"Clearly they have great brands," he added. "It would be disingenuous to say, all of a sudden, we take a different approach to things. Kind of, what you see is what you get when you look at CBS."

Ianniello likened the process, in fact, to the possibility that CBS might have purchased Starz, though that company said last month it instead agreed to be acquired by Lionsgate for $4.4 billion.

"Starz. That's a good comparison. The approach would be the same, the process would be the same, everything would be the same," he stressed.

"Every asset that trades in the marketplace, we look at it," Ianniello said when discussing Starz. "The terms did not make sense to us."

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