Viacom (original)
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Viacom Original
Viacom Inc.
CBS Films (1952-1968)
CBS Enterprises Inc. (1968-1970)
Traded asNYSE: VIA
IndustryBroadcasting and publishing
FateSplit into CBS Corporation and the current incarnation of Viacom
PredecessorsViacom Enterprises
SuccessorsCBS Corporation (legal)
Viacom (spin off)
Founded1952; 67 years ago (1952)
FounderRalph Baruch
DefunctJanuary 3, 2006; 13 years ago (2006-01-03)
Area served
United States
ParentNational 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
Westinghouse Licensing Corporation
UPN Edit this on Wikidata

The first incarnation of Viacom Inc.[a] (an acronym of Video & Audio Communications) was an American media conglomerate. It began as CBS Films, the syndication division of the CBS television network in 1952; it was renamed CBS Enterprises in 1968, renamed Viacom in 1970, and spun off into its own company in 1971. Viacom was a noteworthy 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 Westinghouse Electric Corporation which had been renamed CBS Corporation in 1997. Viacom was spun off into the present-day 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 old Viacom, with the new Viacom being an entirely new company.


Viacom began as CBS Films, the television syndication division of CBS established in 1952[3] and renamed as CBS Enterprises Inc. in January 1968.[4] The division was incorporated in 1970 as Viacom[5] and spun off in 1971, amid new FCC rules forbidding television networks from owning syndication companies[3] (the rules were later repealed).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 Showcase, 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.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7]

Viacom's logo from 1976 to 1989.

In 1983 Viacom purchased KSLA in Shreveport, Louisiana,[8][9] and WHEC-TV in Rochester, New York,[10] 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.[11][12]

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.

In 1985, Viacom fully acquired Showtime/The Movie Channel, Inc. from Warner-Amex, ending the joint venture. In 1987, Viacom bought MTV Networks, which owned MTV and Nickelodeon. 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.[13]

The Blockbuster acquisition gave Viacom access to large television holdings controlled by Aaron Spelling's company, Spelling Entertainment; along with his own productions, Spelling owned the pre-1973 ABC and NBC libraries under Worldvision Enterprises and Republic Pictures. Shortly after the UPN network started operations in January 1995, Viacom/Paramount sold off its non-UPN affiliated stations to various owners over the next couple of years. 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. The merger was completed in 2000, bringing cable channels TNN (now Paramount Network) and Country Music Television (CMT) under Viacom's wing, as well as CBS's production units and TV distributors Eyemark Entertainment (formerly Group W Productions) and King World. CBS' production unit and King World (which has since folded Eyemark) operated under their own names; however, TNN and CMT were merged into MTV Networks almost immediately.

In 2001, Viacom completed its purchase of Black Entertainment Television (BET).[14] As with TNN and CMT, it was immediately integrated into MTV Networks, causing some outcry among BET workers in the Washington area (where BET was based before the merger). As a result, BET was separated from MTV 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 bought independently run Dutch music video channel TMF, which at the time was broadcasting in Belgium and the Netherlands. In June 2004, Viacom 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 of 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 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.[15] 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.[16]

2005 split

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 1, 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 as of November 17, 2017[17]), Simon & Schuster, 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 new spin-off company was created called Viacom, 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.

In September 2006, Redstone fired Freston and named Philippe Dauman as the new head of Viacom.

National Amusements continued to be the controlling shareholder of the two companies formed after the split.

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

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.


  1. ^ The pronunciation VEE-?-kom was used by inaugural chairman Ralph Baruch.[1] The pronunciation VY-?-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. ^ a b Brennan, Jude (July 23, 2014). "CBS Films' Presidency: And Then There Was One". Forbes. Retrieved 2018.
  4. ^ "Broadcasting Magazine, January 29, 1968 (page 8)" (PDF).
  5. ^ a b "History of Viacom Inc.". International Directory of Company Histories. St. James Press. 2005. Retrieved 2018 – via FundingUniverse.
  6. ^ "Viacom gets into station ownership" (PDF). Broadcasting. June 20, 1977. p. 28. Retrieved 2018.
  7. ^ "Viacom, Sonderling propose marriage." Broadcasting, March 20, 1978, pp. 33-34. Accessed January 8, 2019. [1][2]
  8. ^ "In brief" (PDF). Broadcasting. January 17, 1983. p. 144. Retrieved 2019.
  9. ^ "Changing hands-Proposed" (PDF). Broadcasting. January 24, 1983. p. 74. Retrieved 2019.
  10. ^ "Changing hands-Proposed" (PDF). Broadcasting. July 25, 1983. p. 86. Retrieved 2019.
  11. ^ "In brief" (PDF). Broadcasting. December 9, 1985. p. 120. Retrieved 2019.
  12. ^ "Call letters-Grants-Existing TV's" (PDF). Broadcasting. June 30, 1986. p. 64. Retrieved 2019.
  13. ^ "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.
  14. ^ Reuters, From (2001-01-24). "Viacom Completes BET Acquisition". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved .
  15. ^ Taylor, Chuck (29 December 1994). "Viacom Expected To Sell Cable Franchises - TCI Group Would Gain 1.1 Million Subscribers". The Seattle Times.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ "Entercom Sets Friday Morning Close For CBS Radio Merger". Retrieved .

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