CBS Corporation traces its roots back to 1952, when CBS established its television syndication division of CBS Films, soon to be renamed CBS Enterprises in January 1968.
Due to legal reasons resulting from a 1970 Federal Communications Commission ruling that forbid the American broadcast networks from distributing their own network programming for off-network syndication or from producing shows for first-run syndication, CBS Enterprises was spun off in 1971, creating a new, independent company; Viacom. The main subsidiaries of Viacom were Viacom Enterprises, which took CBS Enterprises' old duties, and Viacom Productions, which was created to produce series for the major networks.
In 1976, Viacom launched premium cable channel Showtime, and during the late 1970s and the 1980s, they acquired several radio and TV stations. In 1985, they bought Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment (which had been co-owner of Showtime/TMC, soon to be renamed Showtime Networks, the company managing Showtime as well as its sister channel The Movie Channe), renaming it MTV Networks.
In 1994 Viacom acquired major movie studio Paramount Pictures, including its TV production and distribution companies. This was followed in 2000 by the purchase of the CBS and UPN broadcasting networks (alongside CBS's production and syndication units, as well as cable channels TNN (now Spike) and CMT). Later that year Viacom also bought the BET Networks.
The Viacom split and reunionCBS and its subsidiaries, UPN, Showtime Networks, and the Paramount television subsidiaries. Meanwhile the "new" Viacom gained Paramount Pictures, BET Networks and MTV Networks, which by now included most of the company's acquired cable networks.
On September 29, 2016, CBS Corporation parent National Amusements announced that it is seeking to encourage CBS and co-owned Viacom to re-merge into one company, which would remain under the ownership of National Amusements, which also announced that it would not accept any offers from outside companies to acquire control of that company, Viacom or CBS Corporation. On December 12, 2016, it was announced that the proposed CBS/Viacom re-merger had been cancelled. Viacom and CBS announced on August 13, 2019, that they will re-merge in an effort to compete with Disney/Fox and NBC/Universal on streaming content. The new company became branded as ViacomCBS upon finalization of the merger of the two companies on December 4, 2019, with CBS holding a majority stake.
Current US television assets
- The CW (joint-venture of ViacomCBS (50%) and Warner Bros. (50%)
- Showtime Networks
- CBS Sports Network
- MTV Networks (acquired by the original Viacom in 1986).
- BET Networks (acquired by the original Viacom in 2003).
Additional US television assets
- CBS Cable
- MountainWest Sports Network (joint-venture with CBS Corporation (40%), Mountain West Conference (30%) and Comcast (30%).)
- Bing Crosby Productions
- Desilu Productions
- DreamWorks Television (pre-2008)
- Group W Productions
- King World
- National Telefilm Associates
- Paramount Television (pre-2006)
- Quinn Martin Productions
- Spelling Television
- Viacom Enterprises
- Worldvision Enterprises