The fact that CBS-owned Showtime revealed at the end of last month that it was developing a U.S. version of Paramount TV and Viacom International Studio’s Argentinean comedy 100 Days To Fall In Love is undoubtedly a coincidence, but it also sums up what the two companies need to do globally following the long-awaited decision to merge.
There has already been huge focus on the merger from a domestic point of view, including what the C-suite will look like and how the various domestic assets will work together, but both businesses are also global giants with CBS generating around $2.5B in revenue outside the U.S. last year and Viacom generating around $2.2B.
Below, Deadline looks at the different global strategies and what the merger will mean internationally for the two companies’ slew of foreign divisions as they rebuild the House of Sumner.
In short, Viacom’s focus globally is based around the reach of its MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central networks as well as its ownership of free-to-air networks Telefe in Latin America and Channel 5 in the UK and, more recently, free streaming service Pluto TV. Meanwhile, CBS’ international business has largely prioritized selling its slew of U.S. network dramas and comedies to foreign broadcasters, but in recent years has included ownership of Australia’s Network Ten and the roll-out of CBS All Access.
100 Days To Fall In Love comes from Viacom’s Telefe, which has been central to its growth after its purchase for $345M in 2016. The Argentine broadcaster airs over 3,000 hours of original content per year with a combination of high-volume and long-running telenovelas and shorter run, premium dramas. 100 Days To Fall In Love, which tells the story of a couple who take a 100 day break after a 20-year marriage, was a huge hit domestically, maintaining a 45% share across its 100+ episodes. It is also one of a number of projects that Telefe has used to open the door to the U.S., a strategy that included a partnership with Paramount TV for Nazi thriller Cazadores (Hunters), written by Narcos’ Jason George.
It’s pretty clear that Telefe, which Bob Bakish has previously called a “platform for global growth”, plays an important role in helping to contribute to the 325 series and 17,000 hours of content that the two companies produce in in 45 languages across 183 countries.
Similarly, in the UK, Channel 5, which Viacom acquired for $760M in 2014, has been a big driver. The network, which was formerly derided as a slightly down-market brand that once had the tagline “films, football and fxxking”, has grown over the last few years under content chief Ben Frow. Last year, it won its first ever BAFTA for Cruising With Jane McDonald and recently stepped up its scripted ambitions with a slew of original commissions including PBS co-pro All Creatures Great and Small. C5’s production division, which was recently rebranded from Elephant House Studios to Viacom International Studios UK, has also been stepping up with plans to move further into drama and children’s programming, having previously focused on reality fare such as Mexico-set reality series Make or Break.
VIS has also been growing in other areas including expansion across western and southern Europe, the Middle East and Africa with the appointment of Laura Abril, while its Latin American arm recently partnered with Paramount to remake Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief.
In India, Viacom sold a 1%, controlling, stake in its Indian business Viacom18 to TV18, backed by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, last year. Although the deal ceded control of the firm, which operates 42 channels, the hope is that over time it will ultimately add to its bottom line.
On the other side of the aisle, CBS makes a large part of its international revenues from the sale of its network, cable and digital originals to foreign broadcasters. Since the May Upfronts, it has been shopping its latest slate including Michelle and Robert King’s Evil, Walter Goggins’ comedy The Unicorn, Dick Wolf FBI spinoff and the return of 90210 (left). While these are the hot new titles – and every international acquisitions exec in the world seemingly wanted a picture of themselves with Jennie Garth at the LA Screenings – the company also derives huge value from its library of 70,000 hours, which includes evergreen shows such as NCIS and Blue Bloods, which continue to travel extremely well.
It would logically make sense for this unit, CBS Studios International, which is run by Armando Nunez, President and CEO of CBS Distribution Group, to ultimately house Viacom International Media Networks Programme Sales Group, a slightly less high-profile sales division that sells titles such as Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob Squarepants and formats such as Jersey Shore.
CBS has also started eyeing the global roll-out of its CBS All Access service, which airs originals such as The Good Fight and Twilight Zone, around the world. The platform airs in Canada and Australia and Joe Ianniello, who is now Chairman and CEO of CBS, has previously spoken about its intention to launch it in Latin America as well as certain territories in Europe.
Yesterday, the company highlighted the global opportunities of its direct-to-consumer businesses, claiming it could “expand globally by leveraging the existing strength in both subscription and ad-supported offerings, combined library, content production capabilities and international infrastructure.”
In Australia, CBS put a major marker in the sand after paying $197M to acquire Network Ten in November 2017. The move, which puts it in direct competition with Nine Network and Network Seven, gives it its first global terrestrial broadcaster, after having set up a range of smaller joint ventures with the likes of AMC Networks International over the years.
The new company may be able to leverage the two portfolios down under in a similar way to how Channel 5 in the UK has been able to use programming from Viacom’s pay portfolio, including Nickelodeon titles and Comedy Central’s Friends.
Brian Wieser, Global President, Business Intelligence of ad firm GroupM, highlighted Australia as one of the regions that could apply similar moves to the U.S. However, he said the benefits of international scale will be “modest initially”. “While parts of the two companies are internationally oriented… there are few countries where the transaction will likely have any near-term impact,” he added.
One question that will need to be answered by ViacomCBS bosses is who will ultimately lead this international charge? Will they merge the global businesses, bringing together Nunez’s operation with that of Viacom International Media Networks, which has been run by David Lynn since 2017, replacing Bakish when he became Viacom CEO, or will they keep them separate? It’s one of many questions that will need to be answered during the honeymoon period.
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