Nov 28 The top priorities of Viacom Inc's
acting president and chief executive are improving key
relations with affiliates as well as the struggling media
company's internal culture, Bob Bakish told Reuters at the end
of his first week on the job.
Bakish, Viacom's third CEO in less than three months, is
seen by many investors as a caretaker until the company is
merged into CBS Corp, a deal controlling shareholders
Sumner Redstone and his daughter Shari are pushing.
But the long-time head of international at Viacom appears
intent on having an impact while in charge of the company.
In his first week on the job, he met with talent, as well as
distribution partners and executives and employees on both U.S.
coasts, including at Paramount Studios, he said in an interview
last week from his yet-to-be decorated office in New York.
"The company has been through a lot and part of my job is to
revitalize the culture," Bakish said. "It's about starting to
create a positive buzz and having people believe we can do great
Bakish's focus extends beyond within Viacom. He recently met
with the CEO of a major affiliate about ways the two could
partner, he said. "One thing I am committed to is working to
rebuild some of our affiliate distributor relationships in the
The Redstones, who own the majority of voting shares of CBS
and Viacom through their privately held National Amusements,
want to recombine the two companies 10 years after they split.
Both firms have set up a special committee of directors to
explore a potential merger and have hired bankers as advisers.
Bakish would not comment on whether he thinks the decision
to pursue a merger with CBS could change based on his work. He
also declined to provide details of his strategy to turn around
Viacom, which has been struggling amid declining advertising
revenue and ratings.
Before he started his new role, Bakish set up a 15 person
task force to identify short-term goals that can be fixed.
Now there are nine separate committees aimed at devising
strategies to meet those goals, he said.
"If you look at how the company was being run over the past
few years, it was very siloed and I believe that resulted in a
missed opportunity," he said.
(Reporting By Jessica Toonkel; editing by Anna Driver and Alan