Viacom CEO Bob Bakish Sets 2019 for Paramount Turnaround

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Bob Bakish

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish on Monday made it clear he wasn’t overly impressed with Paramount’s film slate prior to Jim Gianopulos' hiring as studio head a year ago, with the exception of Mission: Impossible — Fallout, which stars Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin and won’t open until July.

“There is a bit of pipeline you have to work through,” Bakish said. “The good news is we’re virtually fully through that pipeline. We do have a Mission: Impossible coming this summer that we are excited about.”

On the new management’s slate, Bakish is excited about Top Gun: Maverick, which also stars Cruise and is set to be released next year.

“2019 is definitely the year” for a Paramount turnaround, Bakish said at the Deutsche Bank Media, Telecom & Business Services Conference in Palm Beach, Florida.

“For those of you who haven’t tracked this story — end of 2016, Paramount was a mess,” the exec said. He added that the studio “consumed about $1 billion in cash, which is a pretty good trick for a company that has a library that throws off $350 million.”

Bakish said that the original plan to finance 25 percent of every picture has been tweaked to an “a la carte” approach that will average at 25 percent across the slate, though every movie will be different.

Paramount is already doing well on the TV side, producing 13 Reasons Why for Netflix and The Alienist for TNT. In all, the studio is working on 14 shows.

“You really see the resurgence of Paramount as a major television producer,” he said.

Bakish also said Paramount Network, which, until January was known as Spike TV, will help the studio. Paramount Network should be thought of as an “ad-supported film network with original and acquired series overlays,” the exec said, but the network is “overwhelmingly based on films.”

The cable channel is “a great halo for the Paramount brand and making sure it’s top of mind and making sure we can leverage that network as we have film releases,” he said.