Viacom (1952–2006)

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Viacom Inc.
  • CBS Television Film Sales (1952–1958)
  • CBS Films (1958–1968)
  • CBS Enterprises Inc. (1968–1970)
  • Viacom International (1970–1986)
Traded as
IndustryBroadcasting and publishing
FoundedMarch 16, 1952; 69 years ago (1952-03-16)
FounderRalph Baruch
DefunctJanuary 3, 2006; 16 years ago (2006-01-03)
FateSplit into the second incarnation of CBS Corporation and the second incarnation of Viacom
  • CBS Corporation
    (2006–2019; legal successor)
  • Viacom
    (2005–2019; spun off)
  • ViacomCBS
One Astor Plaza, New York City
United States
Area served
National Amusements
DivisionsInfinity Broadcasting Corporation
Viacom Productions
Viacom International
CBS Sports
Viacom Outdoor
Paramount Pictures
MTV Networks
Showtime Networks
BET Networks
Simon & Schuster
King World Productions

The original incarnation of Viacom Inc.[a] (derived from "Video & Audio Communications") was an American media conglomerate based in New York City. It began as CBS Television Film Sales, the broadcast syndication division of the CBS television network in 1952; it was renamed CBS Films in 1958, renamed CBS Enterprises in 1968, renamed Viacom in 1970, and spun off into its own company in 1971. Viacom was a distributor of CBS television series throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and also distributed syndicated television programs.

In 1999, Viacom acquired the then-parent company of CBS, the former Westinghouse Electric Corporation, which had been renamed CBS Corporation in 1997. Viacom was split into the second CBS Corporation and Viacom incarnations, and ceased operations in 2006. The spin-off was structured so that CBS Corporation would be the legal successor to the first Viacom, with the second Viacom being an entirely separated company. The two companies eventually re-merged on December 4, 2019, leading to the operations of the current ViacomCBS.


The evolution of ViacomCBS
1912Paramount Pictures is founded
1927CBS is founded
1929Paramount buys 49% of CBS
1932Paramount sells back shares of CBS
1950Desilu is founded & CBS distributes its television programs
1952CBS creates the CBS Television Film Sales division
1958CBS Television Film Sales renamed as CBS Films
1966Gulf+Western buys Paramount
1968Gulf+Western acquires Desilu and renames it Paramount Television & CBS Films becomes CBS Enterprises
1970CBS Enterprises renamed as Viacom
1971Viacom is spun off from CBS as a separate company
1985Viacom buys full ownership of Showtime & MTV Networks
1986National Amusements buys Viacom
1994Viacom acquires Paramount Communications
1995Westinghouse buys CBS
1997Westinghouse renamed as CBS Corporation
1999Viacom buys CBS Corporation
2001Viacom buys BET Networks
2006Viacom splits into second CBS Corporation and Viacom
2019CBS Corporation and Viacom re-merge to form ViacomCBS

The Viacom's origin story set on March 16, 1952 — when CBS founded its broadcast syndication division, CBS Television Film Sales.[3][4][5] It renamed as CBS Films in October 1958.[6][7] On December 1, 1967, it again renamed as CBS Enterprises Inc..[8][9] On July 6, 1970, it announced that CBS Enterprises would be spin out from its parent company,[10] and the same month the division was incorporated as Viacom International,[11][12][13][14][15] and spun off on January 1, 1971,[16] amid new FCC rules forbidding television networks from owning syndication companies (the rules were later repealed).

The original Viacom logo used from 1971 to 1976

In addition to CBS TV series syndication rights, Viacom also held cable systems with 90,000 cable subscribers, at that time the largest in the US. In 1976, Viacom started Showtime, a pay movie channel, with Warner-Amex taking a half-share ownership. The company went into original programming production starting in the late 1970s until the early 1980s with middling results.[15]

String of acquisitions[]

Viacom's first broadcast station acquisition came in 1978 when the company purchased WHNB-TV in New Britain, Connecticut, changing its call letters to WVIT.[17] Two years later Viacom added the Sonderling Broadcasting chain, giving it radio stations in New York City, Washington, D.C., Houston, and San Francisco, and one television station, WAST (now WNYT) in Albany, New York.[18]

Viacom's logo from 1976 to 1989.

In 1983 Viacom purchased KSLA in Shreveport, Louisiana,[19][20] and WHEC-TV in Rochester, New York,[21] in separate transactions. This was followed in 1986 with CBS-owned KMOX-TV in St. Louis; with the purchase, that station's call letters were changed to KMOV.[22][23]

Also in 1983, Viacom reacquired its premium channel Showtime, and later merged it with Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment's The Movie Channel, and later formed Showtime/The Movie Channel, Inc.

Between the late 1980s and the early 1990s, Viacom syndicated several shows produced by Carsey-Werner Productions, namely The Cosby Show, A Different World and Roseanne.[24]

In 1985, Viacom fully acquired Showtime/The Movie Channel, Inc. from Warner-Amex, ending the joint venture. Around the same time, Viacom bought MTV Networks, which owned MTV and Nickelodeon.[25] This led to Viacom becoming a mass media company rather than simply a distribution company.

In 1986, movie theater owner National Amusements bought controlling interest in Viacom, which brought Sumner Redstone to the company. Redstone retained the Viacom name and made a string of large acquisitions in the early 1990s, announcing plans to merge with Paramount Communications (formerly Gulf+Western), parent of Paramount Pictures, in 1993, and buying the Blockbuster Video chain in 1994. The acquisition of Paramount Communications in July 1994 made Viacom one of the world's largest entertainment companies.[26] Also in 1993, WTXX entered into a part-time local marketing agreement with Viacom's NBC station WVIT.[27]

The Paramount and Blockbuster acquisitions gave Viacom access to large television holdings: An archive of programming controlled by Aaron Spelling's company which included, along with his own productions, the pre-1973 ABC and NBC libraries under Worldvision Enterprises and Republic Pictures; and an expanded group of television station properties which merged Viacom's five existing outlets into Paramount's seven-station group. Viacom used some of these stations to launch the UPN network, which started operations in January 1995 as a joint venture with Chris-Craft Industries. Shortly afterward, Viacom/Paramount spent the next two years selling off its non-UPN affiliated stations to various owners. In 1997, Viacom exited the broadcast radio business, albeit temporarily, when it sold the majority of its stations to Chancellor Media, a predecessor company of iHeartMedia.

In 1999, Viacom made its biggest acquisition to date by announcing plans to merge with its former parent CBS Corporation.[28] The merger was completed in April 2000, bringing CBS Cable's channels TNN (now Paramount Network) and Country Music Television (CMT) under Viacom's MTV Networks wing, as well as CBS's production units and TV distributors Eyemark Entertainment (formerly Group W Productions) and King World under the main wing.[29]

In 2001, Viacom completed its purchase of BET Holdings, the owners of the Black Entertainment Television (BET) network.[30] As with CBS Cable, it was immediately integrated into MTV Networks, causing some outcry among BET workers in the Washington DC area (where BET was based before the merger). As a result, BET was separated from MTV Networks, into a division known as BET Networks.

Although a majority economic interest in Viacom was held by independent shareholders, the Redstone family maintained 71-percent voting control of the company through National Amusements' holdings of Viacom's stock.

In 2002, Viacom's MTV Networks International bought independently run Dutch music video channel TMF, which at the time was broadcasting in Belgium and the Netherlands. In June 2004, MTVNI bought VIVA Media AG, the German equivalent to MTV. The same month, plans were announced to dispose of Viacom's interest in Blockbuster later that year by means of an exchange offer; the spinoff of Blockbuster was completed in October.

Also in 2002, Viacom acquired the remaining shares of Infinity Broadcasting radio chain, which resulted in Viacom's return to operating radio stations after it originally exited the broadcast radio business in 1997. In April 2003, Viacom acquired the remaining ownership shares of Comedy Central from then-AOL Time Warner, integrating Comedy Central into MTV Networks.

Viacom Cable[]

From its formation until 1995, Viacom operated several cable television systems generally located in the Dayton, San Francisco, Nashville and Seattle metropolitan areas.[31] Several of these were originally independent systems that CBS acquired in the 1960s. The division was known as Viacom Cablevision until the early 1990s, when it was renamed to Viacom Cable. By 1995, Viacom Cable had about 1.1 million subscribers. Viacom sold the division to TCI in 1995.[32] Viacom's cable assets are now part of Comcast.

2005 split and re-merger of CBS and Viacom[]

CBS Corporation logo

In March 2005, the company announced plans of looking into splitting into two publicly traded companies under the continuing ownership of National Amusements because of a stagnating stock price. The internal rivalry between Les Moonves and Tom Freston, longtime heads of CBS and MTV Networks respectively, and the controversy of Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show, which resulted in MTV being banned from producing any more Super Bowl halftime shows, were also seen as factors. After the departure of Mel Karmazin in 2004, Redstone, who served as chairman and chief executive officer, decided to split the offices of president and chief operating officer between Moonves and Freston. Redstone was set to retire in the near future, and a split would be a creative solution to the matter of replacing him.

The split was approved by Viacom's board on June 14, 2005, and took effect on January 3, 2006, and effectively reversed the Viacom-CBS merger of 1999. The existing Viacom was renamed CBS Corporation (thus restoring its pre-merger name) and was headed by Moonves. It was intended to include Viacom's slower-growing business, namely CBS, The CW (a merger of UPN and The WB), CBS Radio (since sold to Entercom on November 17, 2017[33]), Simon & Schuster (to be sold to Penguin Random House in 2021[34][35]), CBS Outdoor (formerly Viacom Outdoor), Showtime Networks, CBS Television Studios, CBS Television Distribution and CBS Studios International.

In addition, CBS Corporation was given Paramount Parks, which it later sold to amusement park operator Cedar Fair on June 30, 2006, and the CBS College Sports Network, now known as the CBS Sports Network.

Logo of the spun-off Viacom, introduced on January 1, 2006

Additionally, a spun-off company was created that took the Viacom name, which was headed by Freston. It comprised MTV Networks, BET Networks, Paramount Pictures, and Paramount Pictures' home entertainment operations. These businesses were categorized as the high-growth businesses. National Amusements continued to be the controlling shareholder of the two companies formed after the split. In September 2006, Redstone fired Freston and named Philippe Dauman as the head of Viacom.

Logo of ViacomCBS, introduced on December 4, 2019

On August 13, 2019, CBS and Viacom officially announced their re-merger deal; the combined company would be called ViacomCBS, with Bob Bakish as president and CEO and Shari Redstone as the chairwoman of the new company.[36][37][38] On December 4, 2019, the deal was completed.[39]

Former Viacom-owned stations[]

Stations are arranged alphabetically by state and community of license.

Radio stations[]


  • Two boldface asterisks appearing following a station's call letters (**) indicate a station that was purchased from Sonderling Broadcasting in 1980, which initiated Viacom's entry into radio station ownership (WAST television in Albany was also purchased through the Sonderling deal);
  • This list does not include stations owned by CBS Radio and its predecessors, Westinghouse Broadcasting and Infinity Broadcasting which were acquired by Viacom through its merger with CBS in 2000.
AM Stations FM Stations
City of License/Market Station Years owned Current ownership status
Los Angeles KJOI/KXEZ/KYSR–98.7 1990–1997 owned by iHeartMedia
KQLZ/KXEZ/KIBB–100.3 1993–1997 KKLQ, owned by Educational Media Foundation
San Francisco Bay Area KDIA–1310 ** 1980–1993 KMKY, owned by Akai Broadcasting Corporation
KDBK/KSRY-FM–98.9 1990–1994 KSOL, owned by Univision Radio
KDBQ/KYLZ/KSRI–99.1 1990–1994 KSQL, owned by Univision Radio
Denver KHOW–630 1990–1993 owned by iHeartMedia
KHOW-FM/KSYY–95.7 1990–1993 KPTT, owned by iHeartMedia
Washington, D.C. -
Northern Virginia
WMZQ/WZHF–1390 1984–1997 owned by Multicultural Broadcasting
WCPT–730 1993–1997 WTNT, owned by Metro Radio
WMZQ-FM–98.7 ** 1980–1997 owned by iHeartMedia
WCXR-FM–105.9 1993–1997 WMAL-FM, owned by Cumulus Media
Chicago WLAK/WLIT-FM–93.9 1982–1997 owned by iHeartMedia
Detroit WLTI/WDRQ–93.1 1988–1997 owned by Cumulus Media
New York City WWRL–1600 ** 1980–1982 owned by iHeartMedia
WKHK/WLTW–106.7 ** 1980–1997 owned by iHeartMedia
WAXQ–104.3 1996–1997 owned by iHeartMedia
Memphis WDIA–1070 ** 1980–1983 owned by iHeartMedia
WRVR–680 1985–1988 WMFS, owned by Audacy, Inc.
WRVR-FM–104.5 1981–1988 owned by Audacy, Inc.
Houston KIKK–650 ** 1980–1993 owned by Audacy, Inc.
KIKK-FM–95.7 ** 1980–1993 KKHH, owned by Audacy, Inc.
SeattleTacoma KBSG–1210 1989–1996 KMIA, owned by Bustos Media Holdings, LLC
KBSG-FM–97.3 1987–1996 KIRO-FM, owned by Bonneville International
KNDD–107.7 1993–1996 owned by Audacy, Inc.

Television stations[]

This list does not include other stations owned by Paramount Stations Group which were acquired by Viacom through its acquisition of Paramount Pictures in 1994, nor any other station purchased by Viacom/Paramount following the Paramount acquisition and prior to its merger with CBS in 2000.
City of license / market Station Channel
Years owned Current ownership status
New Britain – Hartford – New Haven WVIT 30 (35) 1978–1997 NBC owned-and-operated (O&O)
WTXX 1 20 (33) 1993-1997 The CW affiliate, WCCT, owned by Tegna Inc.
Shreveport – Texarkana KSLA-TV 12 (17) 1983–1995 CBS affiliate owned by Gray Television
St. Louis KMOV 4 (24) 1986–1997 CBS affiliate owned by Gray Television
Albany – Schenectady – Troy WAST/WNYT 13 (12) 1980–1996 NBC affiliate owned by Hubbard Broadcasting
Rochester, New York WHEC-TV 10 (10) 1983–1996 NBC affiliate owned by Hubbard Broadcasting
  • 1 WTXX was owned by Counterpoint Communications, but Viacom operated the station through a part-time local marketing agreement.


  1. ^ The pronunciation /ˈvəkɒm/ VEE-ə-kom was used by inaugural chairman Ralph Baruch.[1] The pronunciation /ˈv.əkɒm/ VY-ə-kom was favored by Sumner Redstone and included in its audible identification marks following its purchase by National Amusements in 1986.[2]

^ Viacom was initially founded in 1971 but was reincorporated in 1986. Effective January 1, 2006, this corporate entity changed its name to CBS Corporation. The present firm known as Viacom was also established at that date and is a new spin-off company created during the CBS-Viacom split.


  1. ^ The Communicators (video). C-SPAN. November 2, 2007.
  2. ^ Hagey, Keach (2018). The King of Content: Sumner Redstone's Battle for Viacom, CBS, and Everlasting Control of His Media Empire. New York: HarperBusiness. p. 131. ISBN 9780062654090. In the beginning, Sumner's Viacom—which he had renamed VIE-uh-com during the first board meeting, in a nod to his fighting spirit […]
  3. ^ "Broadcasting Magazine, January 14, 1952 (page 94)" (PDF).
  4. ^ "Broadcasting Magazine, March 17, 1952 (page 88)" (PDF).
  5. ^ "Broadcasting Magazine, June 23, 1952 (page 80)" (PDF).
  6. ^ "Broadcasting Magazine, September 22, 1958 (pages 31-33)" (PDF).
  7. ^ "Broadcasting Magazine, October 13, 1958 (page 49)" (PDF).
  8. ^ "Name change at CBS" (PDF). December 4, 1967.
  9. ^ "Broadcasting Magazine, January 29, 1968 (page 8)" (PDF).
  10. ^ "Broadcasting Magazine, July 6, 1970 (page 19)" (PDF).
  11. ^ CBS transfers CATV to new public firm (page 50) at Broadcasting History
  12. ^ Viacom goes on big board at Broadcasting History
  13. ^ NYSE now trading Viacom shares at Broadcasting History
  14. ^ CBS Enterprises will sell time for Yankees at Broadcasting History
  15. ^ a b "History of Viacom Inc.". International Directory of Company Histories. St. James Press. 2005. Retrieved 16 August 2018 – via FundingUniverse.
  16. ^ Sudden halt to Viacom spin-off at Broadcasting History
  17. ^ "Viacom gets into station ownership" (PDF). Broadcasting. June 20, 1977. p. 28. Retrieved December 30, 2018.
  18. ^ "Viacom, Sonderling propose marriage." Broadcasting, March 20, 1978, pp. 33-34. Accessed January 8, 2019. [1][2]
  19. ^ "In brief" (PDF). Broadcasting. January 17, 1983. p. 144. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  20. ^ "Changing hands–Proposed" (PDF). Broadcasting. January 24, 1983. p. 74. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  21. ^ "Changing hands–Proposed" (PDF). Broadcasting. July 25, 1983. p. 86. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  22. ^ "In brief" (PDF). Broadcasting. December 9, 1985. p. 120. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  23. ^ "Call letters–Grants–Existing TV's" (PDF). Broadcasting. June 30, 1986. p. 64. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  24. ^ "Cosby in syndication: cash plus barter" (PDF). Broadcasting. 1986-10-20. p. 29. Retrieved 2022-01-06.
  25. ^ Fabrikant, Geraldine (1986-09-17). "VIACOM CHIEF LEADS GROUP'S BUYOUT BID (Published 1986)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-01-23. In November 1985, Viacom acquired MTV for $326 million in cash and warrants. One-third of MTV was publicly owned; the rest was owned by Warner Communications and the American Express Company. At the same time, Viacom bought the 50 percent of Showtime, the pay television service, that it did not already own for $184 million.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  26. ^ "75 Power Players: The Outsiders". Next Generation. Imagine Media (11): 61. November 1995. Viacom completed acquisition of Paramount Communications in July 1994, creating one of the world's largest entertainment companies.
  27. ^ Lender, Jon (1993-06-11). "WVIT Leases Time on WTXX as WTIC Protests". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 2021-10-27.
  28. ^ Sims, David (2019-08-19). "Why Viacom and CBS Had to Merge to Survive". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2019-12-18.
  29. ^ "CBS And Viacom Complete Merger". CBS News. Retrieved 2019-12-18.
  30. ^ "Viacom Completes BET Acquisition". Los Angeles Times. Reuters. 2001-01-24. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-08-14.
  31. ^ Taylor, Chuck (29 December 1994). "Viacom Expected To Sell Cable Franchises – TCI Group Would Gain 1.1 Million Subscribers". The Seattle Times.
  32. ^ Taylor, Chuck (22 January 1995). "Cable Execs To Visit Viacom Sites In Seattle Area – Intermedia Partners Optimistic As They Face Regulatory Hurdles, Tax Scrutiny By Congress". The Seattle Times.
  33. ^ "Entercom Sets Friday Morning Close For CBS Radio Merger". Retrieved 2017-11-17.
  34. ^ "ViacomCBS sells Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House for $2 billion". 25 November 2020.
  35. ^ Lauer, Douglas Busvine, Klaus (2020-11-25). "Bertelsmann buys Simon & Schuster for $2.2 billion in U.S. publishing play". Reuters. Retrieved 2020-11-25.
  36. ^ Gasparino, Charles; Moynihan, Lydia (August 13, 2019). "CBS, Viacom agree to merge, forming a $28B entertainment firm". Fox Business. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  37. ^ Szalai, George; Bond, Paul; Vlessing, Etan (August 13, 2019). "CBS, Viacom Strike Deal to Recombine". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
  38. ^ "CBS and Viacom To Combine" (PDF). CBS. August 12, 2019.
  39. ^ "Viacom and CBS Corp. are officially back together again". CBS News. December 4, 2019.
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