Viacom CEO Denies Interest in Buying Vice Media Stake

Bob Bakish - MTV shuga event - Getty - H - 2016
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"In the last couple of years, we've lost share," Viacom CEO Robert Bakish said of the conglomerate's TV channels. "We need to take that back."

Despite reports to the contrary, Viacom will not be buying into Vice, the new-media company that targets millennials.

The New York Post reported three days ago that Viacom CEO Robert Bakish was one of many executives looking at acquiring a stake in Vice. Viacom had a piece of Vice years ago, but Philippe Dauman, the CEO of the conglomerate back then, sold it for $3 million in 2006. He has been criticized for that move, given that Vice is now valued at about $4.5 billion.

"I have no interest in buying a stake in Vice," Bakish said Monday at the UBS 44th Annual Global Media and Communications Conference in New York. "We're not doing a Vice deal."

He mostly avoided talking about the negotiations pertaining to a possible merger of CBS and Viacom, saying simply that his mandate from the board that made him acting CEO on Oct. 31 is to make the conglomerate "a strong, independent company."

Bakish acknowledged that an important ingredient is a turnaround for Paramount, MTV and Comedy Central. 

While Paramount "throws off a lot of cash" due to its library, the slate has had "two rough years," he said. Bakish added that he likes some of what he sees in the future, including Office Christmas Party, which stars Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston and opens Friday.

Bakish said that Viacom CFO Wade Davis has been spending half of his time at Paramount, where he has been working with the studio on slate financing deals.

He said Comedy Central is finding its groove again with South Park's 20th season performing well and Trevor Noah rebuilding an audience for The Daily Show, which has suffered since the departure of Jon Stewart.

As for MTV, Bakish said the channel "strayed away from music. That was a mistake."

That said, he loves the idea of milking successful formats for everything they are worth, and he used the example of Ridiculousness. There are now several versions of the cheap-to-produce American comedy clip show in various countries, including multiple versions in Spain.

"In the last couple of years, we've lost share," Bakish said of Viacom's TV channels. "We need to take that back."