What's next for ViacomCBS? More deals could be in its future.

Byers Market is a daily newsletter from NBC News senior media reporter Dylan Byers that takes you behind the scenes in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, New York and Washington.
Image: The CBS Broadcast Center in New York on Aug. 13, 2019.
The CBS Broadcast Center in New York on Aug. 13, 2019.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

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By Dylan Byers

Good morning. 🇨🇳 President Donald Trump has suspended plans to impose new tariffs on Chinese goods, including cellphones and laptops, until after the start of the holiday shopping season.

• The move, which sent stocks soaring, is a tacit admission of the negative effect his trade war is having on businesses and consumers.

Join the Market.


Shari Redstone's long game

Moving the Market: Shari Redstone has finally reunited Viacom and CBS, and will now pursue additional mergers and acquisitions to stay competitive while positioning the company for a possible sale later down the line, sources with knowledge of her plans tell me.

The big picture: The creation of ViacomCBS marks the beginning of Redstone's growth plans, not the end. She needs to scale up in order to take on rivals and make the company attractive to buyers.

State of play: With $30 billion in market value, ViacomCBS is still a fraction of the size of media giants like AT&T ($252 billion), Disney ($245 billion), Comcast ($193 billion) and Netflix ($136 billion).

• That means that even with Paramount, CBS, MTV, Showtime, etc. in its portfolio, it will still need more channels and more content to compete for distributor premiums and streaming subscribers.

• Redstone is therefore eyeing mergers with similarly sized rivals like Sony Pictures and Discovery Communications, as well as smaller acquisition targets like Lions Gate, MGM and AMC Networks.

• Eventually, ViacomCBS could become an attractive acquisition target for a company like Amazon, which is pursuing original programming and live sports, or Verizon, which has eyed CBS before.

But until then:

• Redstone will serve as ViacomCBS chair. As my colleague Claire Atkinson notes, the move cements her status "as possibly the most influential woman in media."

• Viacom chief Bob Bakish will become CEO. Joe Ianniello, who has served as acting CBS chief since Les Moonves' departure, will take over that division, staying on into 2021.

• Bakish projects that the combined company will save$500 million a year by combing units, cutting redundancies and selling excess real estate.

• On the investor side, CBS shareholders will own 61 percent of the combined company; Viacom investors will own 39 percent.

• The company expects the deal to close by the end of the year, pending the approval of government regulators.

Backstage drama: WSJ reports that a spring meeting between Redstone and Ianniello at New York’s Pierre hotel "helped set the stage" for the deal, after the former Moonves ally told Redstone he supported the merger he'd once opposed.


Bob Iger puts heat on Fox

Talk of Tinseltown: Bob Iger publicly reprimanded Disney's Fox studio last week for its first quarterly performance since being folded into the company, saying it performed "well below where we hoped it would be when we made the acquisition," Variety's Matt Donnelly and Brent Lang report.

The big picture: Iger's "message was clear: Shape up." His remarks also gave voice "to simmering frustrations on the part of many Disney insiders," including Disney Studios co-chairmen Alan Horn and Alan Bergman.

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What's next: "In a blow to Fox vice chairman Emma Watts... Iger told analysts that top lieutenants Horn and Bergman would be tasked with 'redefining 20th Century Fox’s film strategy for the future.'"


🇺🇸 Talk of the Trail 🇺🇸

Bernie vs. Bezos, con't: Sen. Bernie Sanders has "scaled back his criticism of the media," telling CNN that, contrary to previous statements, he does not actually believe Jeff Bezos is dictating the Washington Post's coverage of his campaign.

• "I think there is a framework about how the corporate media focuses on politics," Sanders says. "That is my concern. It's not that Jeff Bezos is on the phone every day; he's not."


Tim Cook, Daniel Ek eye truce

Big in the Bay, big in the Baltic: "Spotify, the world’s most popular streaming service, is currently discussing a plan with Apple to let iPhone users tell Siri to play songs, playlists and albums with voice commands," The Information's Aaron Tilley and Jessica Toonkel report.

The big picture: "The conversations come amid a growing regulatory battle between the two companies. In March, Spotify filed a complaint with European competition authorities... in which it said Apple blocked the streaming service from working with Siri."

• "The discussions between Apple and Spotify involve a new set of tools that Apple announced in June to give makers of audio apps... ways of making those apps work with Siri."

• And for the record, "Google and Amazon both allow their virtual assistants, Google Assistant and Alexa, to play rival music services, including Spotify."

What's next: "It is unlikely peace will come between the companies anytime soon, even if they resolve their squabble over Siri. Spotify has argued that several other Apple policies... create an unfair advantage for its competing Apple Music service."


Market Links

Mark Zuckerberg pauses human review of audio (Bloomberg)

Evan Spiegel unveils Snapchat's new Spectacles (Verge)

Ben Smith launches two new shows on Facebook (Axios)

Dean Baquet demotes a controversial deputy editor (CNN)

Dave Portnoy threatens to fire unionizing employees (Variety)


Jay-Z joins the NFL

Big with the League: "The NFL has struck a broad alliance with Jay-Z in which the rapper will both help the league with [its] social-justice issues and expand the NFL’s entertainment offerings, including the Super Bowl halftime show and other creative projects," WSJ's Andrew Beaton reports.

The big picture: The deal gives Jay-Z "an integral role in the NFL’s entertainment operations" and effectively positions him "as the face of the NFL’s social-justice program, Inspire Change."


Sports stream: Open season

The Sporting Wars: "The battle to become the next big sports streamer is underway, but unlike the entertainment streaming wars, there isn't a single dominant incumbent that's captured U.S. market share," Axios' Sara Fischer and Kendall Baker report.

• In fact, there are at least 25 or 30 different streaming services that provide live sports, from bundles like YouTube TV to network services like ESPN+ to pure plays like DAZN. None of them have a monopoly on the content you probably want to watch.

The big picture: "While the race to build the next big entertainment streamer is getting tons of media attention, the sports streaming arms race is shaping up to be just as competitive, and potentially even more consequential to the future of live television."

• "But for now, growing a sports streaming empire will be tricky, as most major rights are tied up in long-term TV contracts."


🏈 What's next: Aaron Rodgers needs a new television show to watch now that "Game of Thrones" is over. The Ringer's Kevin Clark catches up with him in Green Bay.

See you tomorrow.