Viacom CEO says he has 'no interest' in buying stake in Vice

Bob Bakish
Viacom CEO Bob Bakish

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish unequivocally squashed the rumor that Viacom was interested in buying a stake in Vice.

Speaking Monday at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference, Bakish said Viacom has “no interest” in the pursuing a deal.

“We’re not going to do it,” Bakish said.

Bakish’s comments were in response to a New York Post report last week that alleged Viacom was among the media companies reportedly bidding for a piece of Vice. Viacom previously held a chunk of Vice but let it go, a move that was chided by former Viacom CEO Tom Freston.

“In 2006, Dauman let a key piece of Vice go for $3 million,” Freston told CNBC earlier this year. “Today, the whole brand is worth $4.5 billion. Furthermore, had Dauman kept that piece of Vice, they would have had a much-needed platform in the digital world. They'd have a home for the Nickelodeon graduates.”

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But while Bakish was quick to dash the rumors about a Vice reunion, he did in a way praise Vice’s media strategy, which includes the 2015 launch of a linear TV channel.

Bakish blasted the notion that it’s impossible to still launch linear TV channels. “There’s a lot of growth ahead,” he said, adding that that growth is compounded when factoring in the substantial opportunity around OTT.

But Bakish said that Viacom needs a suite of TV Everywhere/OTT apps for operators here in the U.S. like the Play Plex suite of video apps it offers in other countries. So far, BET Play has been Viacom’s primary Play Plex direct-to-consumer effort in the U.S. and internationally.

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Bakish said BET Play is less designed as a growth driver but more of a learning experience for the programmer.

Bakish said BET Play won’t attract millions of subscribers but that the launch and operation of the standalone product is helping Viacom evolve its OTT strategy. He added that the education Viacom is getting out of BET Play will help when Viacom decides to do something “more disruptive” in the OTT space.