ViacomCBS Launches $100 Million COVID-19 Relief Fund

Michael Kovac/Getty Images
ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish

The studio becomes the latest to support industry workers impacted by the coronavirus crisis.

ViacomCBS is looking to support industry crewmembers, talent and creatives with a $100 million fund launched amid a production shutdown due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The emergency fund will be distributed by ViacomCBS to the Motion Picture & Television Fund and The Actors Fund, charitable organizations already supporting impacted industry workers.

"One particularly challenging area in this period has been production, as we've unfortunately had to pause most of our TV and film productions to protect the health and safety of our cast, crew and communities," ViacomCBS president and CEO Bob Bakish said Thursday in a message to staff obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.

Bakish added the relief fund came as film and TV production in Hollywood and elsewhere globally had virtually shut down amid the coronavirus spread, which had left many industry workers out of work. "This, in turn, has put at risk the livelihoods of our colleagues who help bring these stories to life," he said.

On March 20, Netflix unveiled a $100 million fund, which will go to the streamers' unemployed crewmembers globally as well as third parties like SAG-AFTRA's COVID-19 Relief Fund, the MPTF's Emergency Relief Fund and The Actors Fund's Entertainment Assistance Program.

A week later, WarnerMedia launched its own $100 million effort for out-of-work crewmembers. And on April 2, Sony said it would create a $100 million relief fund that it would divide among "frontline" medical efforts, "support for children and educators who must now work remotely, and support for members of the creative community."

ViacomCBS earlier warned the novel coronavirus pandemic would have a "material" impact on its financial results as it planned "cost savings initiatives" to offset expected revenue losses. That overall impact includes production delays in television and filmed entertainment programming.

That COVID-19 impact followed CBS Corp. and Viacom recombining late last year to create ViacomCBS, which came 14 years after Sumner Redstone split his entertainment empire in two with the idea of having two focused companies. The Redstone family continues to control the combined firm.

The staff memo from Bob Bakish follows.

Team, as you know, COVID-19 has had an unprecedented effect on our industry, and our company has responded in a multitude of ways to deal with the crisis. This includes pivoting largely to work from home, putting new employee assistance programs in place, changing our approach to live production, using our media and brands to support consumers and much more. Today, I wanted to give you an update on some of the more recent developments.

One particularly challenging area in this period has been production, as we've unfortunately had to pause most of our TV and film productions to protect the health and safety of our cast, crew and communities. This, in turn, has put at risk the livelihoods of our colleagues who help bring these stories to life. In an effort to help this community, our company has already committed $100 million to help provide support to those impacted by COVID-19, including, of course, the non-staff employees on ViacomCBS productions whose operations have been affected.

These funds will also support grants by the Motion Picture & Television Fund and The Actors Fund, as well as contributions to charitable organizations. In addition, our brands continue to support our audiences and communities too. The latest example of this came this week when we joined the world in acknowledging the incredible work of healthcare workers and first responders across all of our ViacomCBS linear channels and social accounts with #AloneTogether Thanks First Responders spots.

These spots join a host of campaigns already underway, including: a sports-focused campaign recently launched by CBS Sports and the NFL called #InThisTogether and #StayHomeStayStrong; Nickelodeon used their #KidsTogether special to raise funds and awareness for charities focused on the needs of children and first responders, and BET is producing a relief effort special, Saving Our Selves, to raise funds for communities of color most impacted; Comedy Central's live-streamed comedy sets to raise funds for LaughAid Covid-19 Relief Fund; and our just announced The One World: Together at Home event in partnership with the World Health Organization and Global Citizen across our ViacomCBS networks.

In this time of crisis, it is important that we use our media to support our consumers globally. And this is something we will continue to look to do. As we look for other ways to support our communities, we'll also be officially launching the new ViacomCBS Employee Matching Gifts Program in the coming weeks. Beginning in the US and UK – and expanding to other regions in the future – ViacomCBS will match up to $1,000 per year of charitable contributions from full-time employees Vice President and below. Please stay tuned for a follow-up email with details about how you can participate.

In the interim, if you're looking for ways to give back at an individual level, we've posted a number of virtual volunteering opportunities on the COVID-19 resource pages of the legacy Viacom and CBS intranets, Greenroom and CBS & You. And know that we will be updating these sites with new information and resources as we continue to work with our partners on other initiatives. So please stay tuned. In these uncertain times, giving back and supporting the well-being of our families, communities, and ourselves is more important than ever. And I couldn't be prouder of how our company has come together to provide relief and support to those who need it.

Stay well, Bob