In a Q&A, Bakish talked about the importance of bringing in the right people, not only on a management level but on all levels. He also acknowledged the drama Viacom went through the past 12-18 months. It was during that time that longtime CEO Philippe Dauman exited after a legal battle with Viacom’s controlling shareholders, Sumner and Shari Redstone.
“We have a lot of issues but I feel very comfortable to say that they are all correctable issues,” Bakish said. “Let’s face it — the company needs a little bit of work,” he said, adding that it has become something of an “underdog.” But he sees a light at the end of the tunnel.“There’s a clear path forward. We already are starting to see some green shoots,” he said. “Our stock has gotten hammered but we have fundamentally great assets.”
Bakish said one of the challenges the company is facing is finding creative product. “We have a creative vision, but need to bring in the right people to get to that goal,” Bakish said. “That is why Sara (Levy, new COO of Viacom Global Entertainment Group) came on board.”
Bakish, who comes from a worldwide background having run Viacom’s international networks, said the company’s strategy is to work and create on a global scale. “For example on the international side, we bought Channel 5 UK and it is a great success, he said, noting this has expanded the company’s ability to produce and own content.
He also stressed the need to bring Paramount Pictures more into the fold with the cable networks, and made clear that the studio is no longer up for sale.
“Paramount Pictures operates almost totally independently from the cable networks,” Bakish said. “To me that’s a big missed opportunity. We really need to work on ways we can leverage our combined scale.”
When asked if Viacom would work with CBS, Bakish replied, “We are two completely independent public companies. If there is an opportunity, great, we will work together, but it is not a strategy.”
Ralitsa Trifonova contributed to this report.