Viacom CEO Bob Bakish Outlines Turnaround at Paramount, MTV

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Bob Bakish

The exec reiterated that TV properties will make their way to film more often.

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish on Wednesday told Wall Street analysts that he'll "take some other form of action" if the conglomerate he runs can't settle its differences with Charter Communications, which has taken MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, BET and Spike out of its basic tier for new subscribers.

"It is not something that is contractually allowed from our standpoint, and it's something we are working to resolve, and we'll just have to see what form of resolution that takes," the exec said in New York at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit.

Bakish said the turnaround at MTV is already bearing fruit, as the network is attracting more teens and females with shows launched only a week ago, and many more new shows are coming shortly.

In regard to skinny bundles, Viacom channels are on Sling TV and DirecTV Now but not on Hulu's or YouTube's offerings, but he sees many changes afoot.

"They're not actually that cheap," Bakish said of skinny bundles.

The exec said there should be clearly delineated tiers offered by cable companies — three of them, to be exact — but the middle will need to be more expensive than the $40 skinny bundles because the content, assuming they include sports, will cost about $46.

"The guys in the middle at $40 can't survive there," he said.

"Now, if you're an MVPD subscriber and you call up and you want to disconnect, you get a discount, because they can't trade you down to a different package," Bakish said. "Long-term, you need the ability to move people up and down."

Of Paramount, he said Jim Gianopulos was "by far" his first choice to take over as CEO after Brad Grey left in February, then died this week.

Bakish called Gianopulos a "very, very seasoned vet" who knows all aspects of the industry. "Those people are in very short supply," he added.

The exec said the strategy is to understand that Paramount is "part of Viacom," so TV properties will make their way to film more often, and movies will be marketed to a larger degree on Viacom's cable channels.

He said Baywatch, the movie starring Dwayne Johnson that opens next week, is "hilarious."

"Hopefully, that's a positive story for Paramount," Bakish said of Baywatch.

On the passing of Grey, he said: "Really shocking for everyone, ourselves included. It just goes to show, you never know, and we should all focus on enjoying life because sometimes it can pass us by quickly."

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