ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish Says Upfront Is “Very, Very Far Along”

ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said Wednesday of the upfront that “things are very, very far along” in the tortured process long overdue and distorted by the coronavirus.

“We are feeling good about how it is shaping up,” he told a BofA virtual media conference Wednesday.

If all goes well, he expects a full slate of primetime network shows by November, he said — noting that eleven are cleared to start production, with most resuming at the end of the month. Other have continued working through the pandemic, like Love Island, which is filmed

On the ad market in general, the CEO was upbeat based on strength in scatter, volume and price, especially with sports coming back and local and political advertising starting to kick in.

Bakish also announced that CBS All Access has reupped with Prime Video in a multiyear deal with Amazon. This centerpiece of the company’s so-called ‘super service’ will be relaunched and rebranded early next year. He said free ad-supported service Pluto TV is on track to hit 30 million monthly active users by year end while the company’s the pay/SVOD platforms will hit an estimated 18 million.

Asked if the company’s M&A policy might shift following the passing of Sumner Redstone last month, Bakish said no.

“Sumner was a true industry titan. His influence on the media and entertainment landscape cannot be overstated and his guidance and leadership certainly left a permanent stamp on our company and helped shape what ViacomCBS is today. But as for major asset sales nothing happening in terms of his passing. We remain focused on the [merger]. We have begun to extract the value from it.”

That includes selling non-core assets like publisher Simon & Schuster and CBS’ historic Black Rock headquarters in Manhanttan. “We have seen significant interest in both assets. We are not doing anything at the moment. We look forward to proceeding with those sales as market conditions allow.” He said proceeds would towards paying down debt.


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