Viacom CEO Bob Bakish Sees “Freight Train” Coming At CES (And That’s A Good Thing)

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish said two major technological trends on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas will fuel will the entertainment industry’s future growth: 5G wireless broadband and autonomous vehicles.

“They’re coming like a freight train and they’re fundamentally good,” Bakish said in remarks at Variety’s Entertainment Summit at CES.

Bakish traced what he called the “arc of consumption,” noting that viewing spiked once TV sets started showing up in children’s bedrooms. Consumption continues to rise, thanks to the advent of subsequent technological milestones including streaming services and mobile devices with larger screens. The deployment of speedier 5G networks will likely continue to drive viewing, he said.

“All the wireless carriers tell me they need use cases,” Bakish said. “And certainly, entertainment is a use case.”

Similarly, the era of self-driving vehicles portends good news for the entertainment industry, as commuters find themselves with more time on their hands.

“Just like adding a television set to the bedroom,” Bakish said. “The last vestige of video-free consumption is the automobile and that’s coming.”

Some people will, like Bakish, choose to work while being driven to work. “But a hell of a lot more people are going to be entertained in cars,” he said.

Bakish revisited Viacom’s turn-around narrative, pointing to the gathering momentum of Paramount Pictures under CEO Jim Gianopulos. He cited the positive reviews and strong box office performance of Bumblebee, a film that crossed $300 million in worldwide box office, as “the most recent proof point.”

MTV, the cable network some dismissed as “dead and buried,” is reporting double-digit audience gains.

Bakish said Viacom is alive and well (and continuing to focus on the corporate rebuilding strategy, regardless of all the CBS-merger speculation). He said Viacom also is looking to strike new distribution deals, including its partnership with Facebook to stream MTV shows, to keep the company’s brands “top of mind” for consumers.

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