AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Soon, one mega entertainment company may be bringing us "Dora The Explorer," "The Daily Show" and "60 Minutes." Viacom and CBS said today that they are merging. Together, they are going to create a $30 billion giant. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik joins us now from New York with the details.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.
CHANG: So can you just give us a picture of what this combined CBS-Viacom behemoth will look like?
FOLKENFLIK: Yeah. From any objective standard, they got a whole lot of properties. Under the same roof, you'll have CBS network, CBS News, you'll have Showtime, the entertainment premium channel on cable, you'll have Comedy Central, BET, Nickelodeon, MTV and Paramount Pictures and television studios as well.
CHANG: Man, phew (ph). And why are these already two huge companies merging now?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, the logic behind the deal - I think the best word for it is fear. Now, executives are putting a good face on it. We heard earlier this afternoon from Viacom CEO Bob Bakish on a call with analysts this afternoon. Here's what he had to say.
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BOB BAKISH: Simply put, the combined company will be one of only a few with the breadth and depth of content and platforms and the global reach to shape the future of the industry.
FOLKENFLIK: Bakish is going to be running the combined company, which they claim is going to be called ViacomCBS. You know, that may be true. They may be one of only a few, but there are a lot of others if you think about it. Think of Disney, which, you know, has the children's franchises like "The Lion King." It's got ESPN, the ABC network, a heck of a lot more and bought a lot of Rupert Murdoch's media empire, at least the entertainment parts at Fox. Think of Homer Simpson, think of the X-Men, think of cable channels like FX. And then there's these other giants - AT&T, Comcast - these guys are a combination of entertainment properties as well as ISP and telephone providers. And then up north, Silicon Valley - look at Amazon and Netflix, even soon Apple. You've got folks that seemingly have bottomless wallets to compete against. They're paying a lot of money to draw a lot of creative talent down there. And they're just so much bigger than even this combined Viacom will be.
CHANG: Sure. I also understand there's some interesting history here - right? - like the Redstone family has controlled both of these companies at various times. What role did any family drama play into this merger?
FOLKENFLIK: There's been a lot of drama. Sumner Redstone is in his mid-90s. He's the patriarch of National Amusements, the holding company that controls both of these companies. He split them apart effective in January of 2006. He wanted to unleash what he thought was the profit to be driven by the entertainment side over at Viacom. Actually, CBS performed much better. Shari Redstone had been his presumed successor, and yet he didn't want to let go. He had to fight with his former girlfriends. He had to fight with some of his executives over at CBS in the boardrooms, in the courtrooms, to make this happen. She prevailed. And ultimately, she was able to get these two companies to agree to merge once she was able to force out Les Moonves, who was felled in a sexual harassment and assault scandal. It's important to note he denies the allegations made against him.
CHANG: Right. Do you think the federal government is going to approve this merger?
FOLKENFLIK: I think they will. I mean, they basically gave the matador defense to the Disney takeover the entertainment properties of Fox. And the Justice Department lost its challenge to try to keep off the takeover of Time Warner and its properties, including CNN, by AT&T. So I think that you're going to look - probably going to be a light touch from federal regulators as Viacom and CBS don't really compete very much at all. I think the real challenge is is this combined ViacomCBS going to be big enough to compete in the world of streamers? They say they've got a lot of content to offer, and that's true. But if you look over at Disney, if you look at AT&T-Time Warner and you look up north to Silicon Valley, there are a lot of folks that have a lot of content that they're going to have to compete against.
CHANG: That's NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik.
Thanks so much, David.
FOLKENFLIK: You bet.
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