Shari Redstone on ViacomCBS Critics: "The Skepticism Is Very Motivating"

Shari Redstone Allen Company Sun Valley Conference - Getty - H 2019
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“My objective is to be the number-one content creation company, and to be everywhere consumers want us to be, whenever they want us to be there,” the mogul said Friday.

With Disney, NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia all shifting their focus to technology in an effort to launch direct-to-consumer streaming services, Viacom and CBS chair Shari Redstone is positioning the soon-to-be-merged companies as a content-driven powerhouse, willing to go direct-to-consumer, but also willing to sell their content to all the companies looking to grow their content coffers.

“My objective is to be the number-one content creation company, and to be everywhere consumers want us to be, whenever they want us to be there,” she said Friday. “The consumer is very nuanced, they have varied interests, that is why our strategy is to be everywhere. We create content for all demographics, for all genres, for all categories on all platforms.”

“Content is still king, thank you dad that was a great expression,” she added, referencing the famous phrase credited to her father, National Amusements chairman Sumner Redstone.

Redstone made the comments at the Paley Center for Media’s International Council Summit in New York Friday. Redstone was interviewed by Aryeh Bourkoff, the founder and CEO of the boutique investment bank LionTree, which served as an adviser to Viacom in the merger talks with CBS.

CBS and Viacom announced their intent to merge in August, with Viacom CEO Bob Bakish set to serve as CEO of the combined company, and CBS CEO Joe Ianniello staying with the firm to oversee the CBS-branded assets.

Redstone says that the merger will be completed at “the very beginning of December,” creating a company with a major U.S. broadcast network, a slew of cable channels, and multiple streaming services and studios.

The reception from the stock market has been muted, with the share prices for both Viacom and CBS trading down from when the merger was first announced.

“The skepticism is very motivating,” Redstone said, adding that she believes the stock is undervalued. “We need to prove to the market that we can execute on what our strategy is. The biggest obstacle is to be complacent and think that you have all the answers to everything. I really truly believe that we have tremendous opportunity now for organic growth, I truly believe that we have the ability to produce content globally, to serve the needs of all the platforms out there.”

One big piece of the puzzle may be the NFL. With TV rights coming up for renewal, Redstone said she “can’t imagine” that the company would not end up with a rights package.

“I think we will be able to help them with a lot of the goals they have, which is reaching the younger generation, going international, providing a platform for the league and their teams,” she said, adding that securing the package “won’t be easy, but we’ll get there.”

Redstone told the crowd that she thinks competitors are underestimating the company, and its potential for organic growth.

“I am bullish on this, I have been fighting for this for years and years, I believe these companies are better together, and I believe that we will be an industry leader long before anybody expects,” she said. “My dad always says he always wants to win; well I never want to lose. Together it puts us in the right place.”