The “V of Doom” officially dies as Viacom name is retired after 51 years as focus shifts to streaming
During an investor event conference call on Tuesday, ViacomCBS announced a rebrand of its entire company as it becomes Paramount Global, though its being referred to as simply Paramount (the name and website domain of Paramount Global was already taken by a packaging firm based in Paramount, Calif.) The company is the corporate parent of CBS’ WBBM-TV in Chicago.
In a way, it’s back to the future for Paramount, who before its merger with Viacom, changed the corporate name in 1989 from Gulf + Western to Paramount Communications at a time the studio was riding high with shows such as Cheers, Entertainment Tonight, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and The Arsenio Hall Show. not to mention a strong off-network library featuring The Brady Bunch, Star Trek, and Happy Days. Paramount was the last Hollywood studio to get into the TV business, acquiring Desilu Productions and its syndication division in 1967 from Lucille Ball.
“An iconic global company deserves an iconic global name– one that reflects the power of our content, one that reflects our role as stewards of a rich heritage and as leaders in the future of entertainment,” CEOs Bob Bakish and Shari Redstone said in a memo to employees. “With this in mind, as we’re announcing today at our investor event, ViacomCBS is becoming Paramount Global, or, more simply, Paramount.”
The rebrand took place Wednesday, as ViacomCBS is now trading under the names PARAA (Class A common), PARA (Class B common), and PARAP (Preferred Stock). But Wall Street wasn’t impressed as the stock dropped 18 percent at the end of the trading day.
The move is meant to put the Paramount name front and center, as it has more brand name recognition. But it also represents a shift in priorities as the TV ecosystem is moving to streaming, and the media business is becoming more global as ViacomCBS dropped the CBS All Access name and became Paramount Plus over a year ago. On the same call, Paramount announced the entire South Park library will shift to Paramount Plus once its deal with HBO Max expires and making new Beavis and Butthead episodes exclusive to the service. Premium Showtime content will also be available to subscribers beginning this summer, including Yellowstone and past episodes of Billions (for a complete list of new series coming to Paramount Plus, click here.)
Currently, there are 32.8 million subscribers to Paramount Plus worldwide. By comparison, Netflix has 222 million subs worldwide.
The rebrand marks the end of the Viacom name, whose roots originated in 1952 as CBS Films. After the fin-syn rules forced the three major networks to spin-off their syndication divisions in 1970, CBS spun their syndication company to its shareholders and in June 1971 renamed Viacom (short for Video and Audio Communications) and syndicated mostly off-CBS programs such as The Andy Griffith Show and Perry Mason, but also first-run programs such as a weekly nighttime version of The Price Is Right and The Amazing World Of Kreskin. From 1976 to 1986, the company was infamously known for its on-screen closing logo, later christened as the “V of Doom”:
Viacom would grow into a global powerhouse in the 1980s with the acquisitions of MTV, Nickelodeon, and several TV and radio stations (including WLIT-FM Chicago). During this time, Viacom landed syndication rights to The Cosby Show and Roseanne, earning them millions of dollars in syndication revenue. In 1994, Viacom acquired Paramount Pictures and four years after the fin-syn rules expired, reunited with CBS and again in 2019 fourteen years after an ill-fated split, with each becoming separate companies.
The Viacom name was also used for its one and only flagship store on North Michigan Avenue, selling merchandise from its brands such as MTV, Star Trek, Nickelodeon, and others. Opening in May 1997 and lasting just nineteen months, the store received poor reviews from the Tribune’s Mary Schmich and the Sun-Times’ Richard Roeper as the concept flopped with consumers (I actually applied for a job at the store before it opened, and thankfully wasn’t hired.)
For now, Paramount’s syndication division remains as CBS Media Ventures, as it was rebranded from CBS Television Distribution a year ago. When Viacom bought Paramount, it assumed the Paramount Domestic Television name for the syndication division of the then-newly merged company – a brand that actually still resonates today, given their success. Since Disney’s syndication division rebranded itself as Disney Media Distribution from Disney-ABC Domestic Television in fall 2020, maybe Paramount should ditch the CBS name and go with Paramount Media Ventures, if not the Domestic Television name.