SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE
SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For fiscal year ended December 31, 2019
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from to
Commission File Number 001-09553
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
(State or other jurisdiction of
incorporation or organization)
(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
(Address, including zip code, and telephone numbers, including
area code, of registrant’s principal executive offices)
Securities Registered Pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of Each Class
Name of Each Exchange on
Class A Common Stock, $0.001 par value
The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC
Class B Common Stock, $0.001 par value
The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC
Securities Registered Pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
(Title of Class)
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer (as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act of 1933). Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Yes ☐ No ☒
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that registrant was required to submit such files). Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
Large accelerated filer
Smaller reporting company
Emerging growth company
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934). Yes ☐ No ☒
As of June 28, 2019, which was the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter, the market value of the shares of the registrant’s Class A Common Stock, $0.001 par value (“Class A Common Stock”), held by non-affiliates was approximately $243,415,727 (based upon the closing price of $50.04 per share as reported by the New York Stock Exchange on that date) and the market value of the shares of the registrant’s Class B Common Stock, $0.001 par value (“Class B Common Stock”), held by non-affiliates was approximately $16,424,348,923 (based upon the closing price of $49.90 per share as reported by the New York Stock Exchange on that date); and the aggregate market value of the shares of both Class A Common Stock and Class B Common Stock held by non-affiliates was $16,667,764,650.
As of February 14, 2020, 52,268,438 shares of Class A Common Stock and 561,471,552 shares of Class B Common Stock were outstanding.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of ViacomCBS Inc.’s Notice of 2020 Annual Meeting of Stockholders and Proxy Statement to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission pursuant to Regulation 14A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Part III).
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ViacomCBS Inc. (“ViacomCBS”) is a leading global media and entertainment company that creates content and experiences for audiences worldwide. We operate through the following four segments:
TV Entertainment. Our TV Entertainment segment creates and acquires programming for distribution and viewing on multiple media platforms, including our broadcast network, through multichannel video programming distributors (“MVPDs”) and virtual MVPDs, and our streaming services, as well as for licensing to third parties both domestically and internationally. TV Entertainment consists of the CBS Television Network™, CBS Television Studios®, CBS Television Distribution®, CBS Interactive®, CBS Sports Network®, CBS Television Stations™ and CBS-branded streaming services CBS All Access® and CBSN®, among others.
Cable Networks. Our Cable Networks segment creates and acquires programming for distribution and viewing on multiple media platforms, including our cable networks, through MVPDs and virtual MVPDs, and our streaming services, as well as for licensing to third parties both domestically and internationally. Cable Networks consists of our premium subscription cable networks Showtime®, The Movie Channel® and Flix®, and a subscription streaming offering of Showtime; our basic cable networks Nickelodeon®, MTV®, BET®, Comedy Central®, Paramount Network®, Nick Jr. ®, VH1®, TV Land®, CMT®, Pop TV™ and Smithsonian Channel™, among others, as well as the international extensions of these brands operated by ViacomCBS Networks International™ (“VCNI”); international broadcast networks, Network 10®, Channel 5® and Telefe®; and Pluto TV™, a leading free streaming TV platform in the United States (“U.S.”).
Filmed Entertainment. Our Filmed Entertainment segment develops, produces, finances, acquires and distributes films, television programming and other entertainment content in various markets and media worldwide primarily through Paramount Pictures®, Paramount Players™, Paramount Animation® and Paramount Television Studios™.
Publishing. Our Publishing segment publishes and distributes Simon & Schuster consumer books domestically and internationally and includes imprints such as Simon & Schuster®, Scribner™, Atria Books® and Gallery Books®.
For the year ended December 31, 2019, contributions to our consolidated revenues from our segments were as follows: TV Entertainment 43%, Cable Networks 45%, Filmed Entertainment 10% and Publishing 3%.
Owners of our Class A Common Stock are entitled to one vote per share. Our Class B Common Stock does not have voting rights. ViacomCBS Class A and Class B Common Stock are listed on The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC.
As of December 31, 2019, National Amusements, Inc. (“NAI”), a closely held corporation that owns and operates movie screens in the U.S., the United Kingdom (“UK”) and South America and manages additional movie screens in South America, directly or indirectly owned approximately 79.4% of our voting Class A Common Stock, and approximately 10.2% of our Class A Common Stock and Class B Common Stock on a combined basis. NAI is not subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended.
We were organized as a Delaware corporation in 1986. Our principal offices are located at 1515 Broadway, New York, New York 10036. Our telephone number is (212) 258-6000 and our website is www.viacbs.com. Information included on or accessible through our website is not intended to be incorporated into this Annual Report on Form 10‑K. On December 4, 2019, Viacom Inc. (“Viacom”) merged with and into CBS Corporation (“CBS”), with CBS continuing as the surviving company (the “Merger”), pursuant to an Agreement and Plan of Merger dated as of August 13, 2019, as amended on October 16, 2019 (the “Merger Agreement”). At the effective time of the Merger, we changed our
name to “ViacomCBS Inc.” Unless the context requires otherwise, references in this document to “ViacomCBS,” “Company,” “we,” “us” and “our” mean ViacomCBS Inc. and our consolidated subsidiaries, to “CBS” mean CBS Corporation and its consolidated subsidiaries prior to the Merger and to “Viacom” mean Viacom Inc. and its consolidated subsidiaries prior to the Merger.
Our TV Entertainment segment consists of the CBS Television Network, our domestic broadcast network; CBS Television Studios and CBS Television Distribution, our television production and syndication operations; CBS Interactive, our online content services for information and entertainment; our CBS-branded streaming services CBS All Access, CBSN, CBS Sports HQ® and ET Live®; CBS Sports Network, our cable network focused on college athletics and other sports; and CBS Television Stations, our 29 owned broadcast television stations.
Our TV Entertainment segment’s revenues are generated primarily from advertising sales, the licensing and distribution of its content and affiliate revenues comprised of station affiliation fees, retransmission fees and subscription fees, as further described below. In 2019, our TV Entertainment segment advertising revenues, content licensing revenues and affiliate revenues were approximately 50%, 26% and 21%, respectively, of total revenues for this segment. Our TV Entertainment segment generated 43%, 41% and 39% of our consolidated revenues in 2019, 2018 and 2017, respectively.
The CBS Television Network, through CBS Entertainment™, CBS News® and CBS Sports®, distributes a comprehensive schedule of news and public affairs broadcasts, sports and entertainment programming to more than 200 domestic television station affiliates reaching throughout the U.S., including 15 of our owned and operated television stations, and to affiliated stations in certain U.S. territories. The CBS Television Network primarily derives revenue from the sale of advertising time for its network broadcasts and affiliation fees from television stations affiliated with the CBS Television Network.
CBS Entertainment is responsible for acquiring or developing and scheduling the entertainment programming presented on the CBS Television Network, which includes primetime comedy and drama series, reality‑based programming, specials, children’s programs, daytime dramas, game shows and late-night programs such as The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. During 2019, the CBS Television Network broadcast the Tony Awards®, the Kennedy Center Honors and the Grammy Awards®. CBS won 21 awards at the 46th Annual Daytime Emmy® Awards in May 2019.
CBS News operates a worldwide news organization, providing the CBS Television Network and CBS News Radio® with regularly scheduled news and public affairs broadcasts, including 60 Minutes, 48 Hours, CBS Evening News, CBS This Morning, CBS Sunday Morning and Face the Nation as well as special reports.
CBS Sports broadcasts on the television network include PGA Tour golf tournaments, the Masters and the PGA Championship; the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament and certain regular-season men’s college basketball games, including games from the Big Ten Conference; regular-season college football games, including games from the Southeastern Conference; and the NFL’s American Football Conference (“AFC”) regular-season, post-season wild card playoff, divisional playoff and championship games. In 2019, the CBS Television Network broadcast certain games under our agreement with the NFL to broadcast the AFC package through the 2022 season, which also includes the Super Bowl, which is broadcast on the CBS Television Network on a rotating basis with other networks. Our most recent Super Bowl broadcast was in February 2019 and our next Super Bowl broadcast will be in February 2021.
CBS Television Network content also is exhibited via the Internet, including through CBS.com™, CBSSports.com® and related software applications (“apps”); our streaming services, such as CBSN and CBS All Access, which are further described below; and virtual MVPDs, such as AT&T TV Now, Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV.
The CW, a broadcast network and our 50/50 joint venture with Warner Bros. Entertainment, airs programming, including Charmed and The Flash. Eight of our owned television stations are affiliates of The CW. Certain of The CW’s series are streamed on Netflix, a subscription video-on-demand service (“SVOD”), and are also available via The CW app on multiple digital platforms.
CBS Television Studios and CBS Television Distribution produce, acquire and/or distribute programming, including series, specials, news and public affairs, and generate revenue principally from the licensing and distribution of such programming. The programming is produced primarily for broadcast on network television, exhibition on basic cable and premium subscription services, streaming services or distribution via first-run syndication. First-run syndication is programming exhibited on television stations without prior exhibition on a network or cable service. We subsequently distribute programming after its initial exhibition on a network, basic cable network or premium subscription service for domestic exhibition on television stations, cable networks or streaming services (known as “off-network syndicated programming”). Off-network syndicated programming and first‑run syndicated programming distributed domestically, as well as programming distributed internationally, can sometimes be sold in successive cycles of sales known as “first cycle” sales, “second cycle” sales, and so on, which may occur on exclusive or non-exclusive bases.
Programming that our production group produced or co-produced and is broadcast on network television includes, among others, FBI (CBS), Evil (CBS) and Nancy Drew (The CW). In off-network syndication, we distribute series, such as Hawaii Five-O, Criminal Minds, Blue Bloods and NCIS: New Orleans as well as a library of older television programs. We also produce and/or distribute first-run syndicated series such as Jeopardy!, Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition, Dr. Phil and Judge Judy and produce several series for streaming on CBS All Access, including The Good Fight, Star Trek: Discovery, Why Women Kill and Star Trek: Picard. We also distribute syndicated and other programming internationally.
CBS Interactive is one of the leading global publishers of premium content on the Internet, delivering this content via web properties, mobile properties and apps on mobile, as well as Internet-connected television and other device platform apps. CBS Interactive is ranked among the top Internet properties in the world according to comScore Media Metrix. CBS Interactive’s leading brands serve targeted audiences with text, video, audio, and mobile content spanning technology, entertainment, sports, news, business, gaming and music categories. CBS Interactive generates revenue principally from the sale of advertising and sponsorships, in addition to subscription fees, license fees and e-commerce activities.
CBS Interactive operates CBS.com, the online destination for CBS Television Network programming. Further extending the CBS.com experience, we offer a CBS app for on-demand streaming of various programs from our current network and library programming to users on multiple digital platforms. CBS Interactive operates CBSNews.com, the online destination for CBS News content, and offers an app for on-demand screening of current and library news programming and the content published on the website. CBS Interactive also operates CBSSportsDigital™, the online destination for CBS Sports content, including CBSSports.com, which provides sports content, fantasy sports, and community and e-commerce features, and a related app for on-demand viewing of certain sports events broadcast on CBS and other sports information; Max Preps; and 247Sports.
CBS Interactive also owns and operates other digital properties, including: CNET, one of the preeminent digital properties for technology and consumer electronics information; CNET en Espanol®; TVGuide Digital™; GameSpot®; Last.fm®; and MetroLyrics.com®.
Under CBS Interactive, Viacom Digital Studios (“VDS”) and its international extension, Viacom Digital Studios International, produces original content for consumption across leading social platforms to build engagement with certain of our Cable Networks brands. VidCon®, an innovative conference and festival celebrating online video, drives additional growth at VDS and our live events business.
Our CBS-branded streaming subscription services and advertiser-supported services feature general entertainment, news, sports and/or children’s programming and generate revenue from subscription fees and the sale of advertising on such services, respectively. The services are offered to customers through mobile and connected devices and third-party platforms. The below-described services are operated under CBS Interactive in collaboration with our other businesses.
CBS All Access is a streaming subscription service, which includes a commercial-free option for on-demand content. CBS All Access offers an extensive on-demand selection of both current and library programming and original series, such as The Good Fight, Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, Why Women Kill and The Twilight Zone series; and CBSN’s live and original news reporting and our other streaming services, as described further below, as well as the ability to stream live programming from local CBS Television Stations and certain CBS television station affiliates. All NFL games broadcast by the CBS Television Network as well as other CBS Television Network programming are streamed on CBS All Access platforms. CBS All Access also offers children’s programming, including original series and select Nickelodeon programming. CBS All Access is available at CBS.com and on multiple digital platforms and through CBS apps in the U.S. and Canada. A version of CBS All Access has launched internationally in Canada and 10 All Access in Australia includes programming from our Network 10 channels and certain of our other programming.
CBSN is a streaming live, advertiser-supported news network available 24 hours a day, seven days a week (“24/7”). Local versions of CBSN complement CBSN and stream local news from our owned television stations in major markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston and Minneapolis. CBSN is available at CBSNews.com and on multiple digital platforms through the CBS News app and through CBS Television Stations’ websites and mobile apps.
CBS Sports HQ is a streaming live, advertiser-supported sports news and highlights service available 24/7; and ET Live is a streaming advertiser-supported service based on the Entertainment Tonight brand covering entertainment stories and trends available 24/7.
Through the CBS Audience Network™, we deliver video content from our digital properties and television stations and affiliated television stations under an advertiser-supported distribution model to third-party digital properties. The growing slate of our content available online includes full episodes, clips and highlights based on our programming as well as original made-for-the-web content.
CBS Sports Network is a 24/7 cable program service that provides a diverse slate of sports and related content, with a strong focus on college sports. CBS Sports Network derives revenue from carriage fees from MVPDs and virtual MVPDs and advertising sales. The network televises over 700 live professional, amateur and collegiate events
annually, highlighted by Division I college football and basketball games, including games from the Big East Conference and Mountain West Conference. WNBA games and professional bull riding (PBR) and motor sports events. In addition, the network showcases a variety of original programming, including documentaries, features and studio shows, highlighted by NFL Monday QB, That Other Pre-Game Show (TOPS), Time to Schein and a first of its kind all-female panel sports talk show, We Need to Talk. CBS Sports Network also provides ancillary coverage for CBS Sports relating to major events, such as the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, Masters and PGA Championship, and for Showtime Networks relating to Showtime Championship Boxing. CBS Sports Network produces weekday simulcasts of the radio shows Boomer and Gio, Tiki and Tierney and The Jim Rome Show.
The CBS Television Stations group consists of our 29 owned broadcast television stations, all of which operate under licenses granted by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) pursuant to the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (the “Communications Act”). The licenses are renewable every eight years. The CBS Television Stations Group principally derives revenue from the sale of advertising on our television stations and fees for authorizing the MVPDs’ and vMVPDs’ carriage of our television stations, which are also known as retransmission fees.
Our television stations are located in the 6 largest, and 15 of the top 20, television markets in the U.S. We own multiple television stations within the same designated market area (“DMA”) in 10 major markets. These multiple station markets are: New York (market #1), Los Angeles (market #2), Philadelphia (market #4), Dallas-Fort Worth (market #5), San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose (market #6), Boston (market #9), Detroit (market #14), Miami-Ft. Lauderdale (market #16), Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto (market #20) and Pittsburgh (market #24). Our television stations enable us to reach a wide audience within and across geographically diverse markets in the U.S. The stations produce news and broadcast public affairs, sports and other programming to serve their local markets and offer CBS, The CW or MyNetworkTV programming and syndicated programming.
CBS All Access offers streamed live programming from local CBS Television Stations and most CBS television station affiliates. Local versions of CBSN offer streamed local news from our owned television stations in certain local markets. Our television stations have local websites which promote the stations’ programming. We also have agreements for the streaming of our owned television stations on virtual MVPDs. Our owned stations broadcast free, advertiser-supported digital channels using available broadcast spectrum, including local CBS and syndicated programming, Start TV™, a national entertainment program service featuring classic television content focused on female audiences, which is an approximately 50/50 joint venture with Weigel Broadcasting, and Dabl featuring lifestyle programming.
Television Stations, Local Websites and CBSN Streaming Services
The following table sets forth information regarding our owned television stations and related local websites and CBSN streaming services, as of February 18, 2020, within U.S. television markets:
Market and Market Rank(1)
Local Websites and
CBSN Streaming Services(2)
New York, NY (#1)
CBSN New York
Los Angeles, CA (#2)
CBSN Los Angeles
Chicago, IL (#3)
Philadelphia, PA (#4)
Dallas‑Fort Worth, TX (#5)
San Francisco, CA (#6)
CBSN Bay Area
Boston, MA (#9)
Atlanta, GA (#10)
Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL (#12)
Seattle-Tacoma, WA (#13)
Detroit, MI (#14)
Minneapolis, MN (#15)
Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL (#16)
Denver, CO (#17)
Sacramento, CA (#20)
Pittsburgh, PA (#24)
Indianapolis, IN (#25)
Baltimore, MD (#26)
Television market (DMA) rankings based on Nielsen Media Research Local Market Universe Estimates, September 2019.
Our television stations’ websites and the local versions of CBSN feature and promote the stations’ programming and provide news, traffic, weather, entertainment and sports information, among other services for their local communities.
KCCW-TV is operated as a satellite station of WCCO-TV.
WBXI-CA is a Class A low power television station. Class A low power television stations do not implicate the FCC’s ownership rules.
Our Cable Networks segment provides entertainment content, services and related branded products for consumers in targeted demographics attractive to advertisers, content distributors and retailers. The Cable Networks segment also delivers advertising and marketing services, including those under our advanced marketing solutions portfolio, which both utilizes advanced addressable video inventory to allow dynamic ad insertion and advanced targeting, and provides our marketing partners with a variety of consulting and creative services and associated activations. The Cable Networks segment also licenses its brands and properties for consumer products and recreation experiences, produces live events and creates original programming for third-party distributors.
Our Cable Networks segment includes our premium subscription cable networks, Showtime, The Movie Channel and Flix; our basic cable networks, including Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Paramount Network, Nick Jr., VH1, TV Land, CMT, Pop TV and Smithsonian Channel; and the international extensions of our multimedia brands, and our program services created specifically for international audiences such as public service broadcaster (“PSB”) Channel 5® and Milkshake!® in the UK, Televisión Federal S.A., or Telefe®, in Argentina, COLORS® in India, Paramount Channel™ in various countries and international broadcast network Network 10® in Australia.
Our Cable Networks segment also develops and operates an extensive portfolio of digital and mobile experiences, including our streaming subscription offering of Showtime (“Showtime OTT”), Noggin, Nickelodeon’s preschool streaming subscription service, BET+, a subscription streaming service focused on Black audiences and consumers of Black culture, and Smithsonian Channel Plus.
Our studio production business is a global network of production studios producing premium episodic and film content across both our owned and operated platforms and for third parties. This business is primarily driven by Paramount Television Studios, Awesomeness, Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central and utilizes our considerable intellectual property library to create long-form episodic content for third-party platforms.
Our Cable Networks segment’s revenues are generated primarily from affiliate revenues comprised of fees from MVPDs and virtual MVPDs for carriage of our cable networks and subscription fees from our streaming services; advertising sales; and the licensing of its content and brands. In 2019, our Cable Networks segment affiliate revenues, advertising revenues and content licensing revenues were approximately 49%, 41% and 10%, respectively, of total revenues for this segment. Our Cable Networks segment generated 45%, 46% and 47% of our consolidated revenues in 2019, 2018 and 2017, respectively.
Our most significant Cable Networks brands are discussed below.
Our three commercial-free, premium subscription program services in the U.S. are Showtime (including Showtime OTT), which offers original scripted and unscripted series, recently released and other theatrical feature films, documentaries, sports-related programming, comedy and other specials, and special events; The Movie Channel, which offers recently released and other theatrical feature films and related programming; and Flix, which offers theatrical feature films primarily from the last several decades.
Programming highlights in 2019 included Showtime original series Billions, Ray Donovan, The L Word: Generation Q and Shameless, limited series The Loudest Voice, documentary features including Hitsville: The Story
of Motown, documentary series including The Circus: Inside the Wildest Political Show on Earth, and various sports-related programs and documentary series including Inside the NFL. As of December 31, 2019, subscriptions to Showtime (including Showtime OTT) totaled approximately 27 million in the U.S., certain U.S. territories and Bermuda.
Showtime OTT allows subscribers to view on-demand programming as well as the live telecast of the east and west coast feeds of Showtime, and is available for purchase (without an MVPD video subscription) at showtime.com™, through the Showtime app and from multiple digital platforms. Showtime Anytime®, an authenticated version of Showtime, is available online and, via certain Internet-connected devices, through the Showtime Anytime app, free of charge to Showtime subscribers as part of their Showtime subscription through participating distributors.
Showtime Networks also produces and/or provides special events on a pay-per-view basis available for purchase by both Showtime subscribers and non-subscribers through the Showtime app and third-party distributors, including the Manny Pacquiao vs. Adrien Broner boxing match in January 2019.
Nickelodeon, now in its 40th year, is one of the most globally recognized and widely distributed multimedia entertainment brands for kids and family. Nickelodeon has been the number-one-rated ad-supported basic cable network for 24 consecutive years among kids 2 to 11. Nickelodeon features leading original and licensed series for kids across animation, live-action and preschool genres, and during the evening and overnight hours, the linear cable channel airs as Nick at Nite and features licensed family comedies. Nick Jr. entertains and educates preschoolers, engaging them with characters they love, building their imaginations and gaining key cognitive and social-emotional skills. Other Nickelodeon brands include TeenNick, Nicktoons and Nick Music.
Programming highlights in 2019 included Ryan’s Mystery Playdate, SpongeBob SquarePants, PAW Patrol, The Loud House, The Casagrandes, Henry Danger, Bubble Guppies, Blue’s Clues & You and Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? with John Cena and tentpole events such as Kids’ Choice Awards.
Nickelodeon is a key part of our global consumer products licensing business, licenses its brands for recreation experiences such as hotels and theme parks, and has numerous live and location-based experiences, such as JoJo Siwa’s D.R.E.A.M. The Tour, a multi-city live concert tour, its SlimeFest music festival in Chicago, multiple PAW Patrol live tours around the world, and Kids’ Choice Awards events in various international markets. In 2019, we acquired the entity holding global intellectual property rights to the Garfield franchise, including related to content, consumer products and location-based experiences. Noggin, Nickelodeon’s preschool subscription streaming service featuring over 1,000 full-length library episodes, interactive videos and short-form educational content, has an Amazon Prime Video Channel. In partnership with Paramount, Nickelodeon Movies™ produces branded films based on some of Nick’s most iconic franchises and characters.
Awesomeness creates programming for various social and SVOD platforms and produces premium original series and films through its Emmy®-winning dedicated television and film studios. Awesomeness’ portfolio is strengthened by a branded content sales team, a creator network, a creative agency and a roster of talent relationships. Programming highlights in 2019 included PEN15, which was nominated for a 2019 Emmy® for outstanding writing for a comedy series, season two of Light as a Feather on Hulu, and The Perfect Date and Trinkets on Netflix.
MTV is the leading global youth media brand, with operations spanning cable and mobile networks, live events, theatrical films and MTV Studios.
Programming highlights in 2019 included new series launches The Hills: New Beginnings and Double Shot at Love with DJ Pauly D and Vinny, returning favorites Teen Mom, MTV Floribama Shore, Ridiculousness, Wild ‘N Out, Are You The One?, Siesta Key, The Challenge franchise and Jersey Shore: Family Vacation. The signature MTV hit Jersey Shore format has been adapted for our international audiences, with multiple versions around the world, including as Geordie Shore in the UK (now in its 20th season) and Acapulco Shore in Mexico, and some of our international programming formats have been imported to the U.S., such as Ex on the Beach, which originated in the UK and has become a global franchise with 14 local adaptations airing worldwide.
MTV’s signature programming event, the MTV Video Music Awards, in 2019 drew 5.5 million viewers across its live linear simulcast and 269 million video views from the launch of the VMA website through the day of the show. MTV’s annual tentpole programming events also include the MTV European Music Awards, MTV Movie and TV Awards, MTV MIAWs (celebrating the best in Latin music and the digital world of the millennial generation) and MTV Fandom Awards. In July 2019, MTV hosted its 13th annual Isle of MTV Malta concert and Malta Music Week events.
BET is a leading consumer brand in the urban marketplace, and the nation’s leading provider of entertainment, music, news and public affairs programming to African American audiences. Other BET brands include BET Her, the first network designed for black women, delivering a wide variety of culturally relevant programming, BET Gospel, featuring gospel music and spiritual programming, and BET Hip Hop, spotlighting hip hop music programming and performances.
Programming highlights in 2019 included new series launches American Soul and Boomerang, and returning favorites such as Martin, House of Payne and Meet the Browns. BET’s tentpoles and live events in 2019 included the seventh annual BET Experience, BET’s weekend-long celebration of music, entertainment and Black culture featuring the 2019 BET Awards, which aired as the number one cable awards show for the fifth consecutive year among adults 18 to 49; Black Girls Rock; and BET Hip Hop Awards. BET’s programming received seven NAACP Image Awards nominations and two wins in 2019.
BET has a multi-year content partnership with award-winning writer, director, producer, actor and playwright Tyler Perry, that extends through 2024 and spans television, film and short-form video. In October 2019, The Oval and Sistas premiered, the first two series in the multi-year partnership. In 2019, BET and Tyler Perry launched BET+, an online SVOD service focused on Black audiences and consumers of Black culture and featuring more than 1,000 hours of advertising-free premium content, including original programming from Tyler Perry and exclusive series and other content from leading Black content creators.
Comedy Central is a leading destination for comedic talent and all things comedy, providing viewers access to a world of funny, provocative and relevant comedy, ranging from award-winning late-night, scripted and animated series, to stand-up specials, short-form and sketch.
Programming highlights in 2019 included the launch of South Side, the network’s highest-rated series premiere since 2012 among African Americans 18 to 49; returning hits The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Drunk History and digital original Hack Into Broad City, each of which received several Emmy® nominations for outstanding series in their respective categories in 2019, South Park, which was renewed in September 2019 for three additional seasons, and the premieres of the critically-acclaimed scripted series The Other Two and sketch comedy Alternatino with Arturo Castro.
Comedy Central also produces nationwide stand-up events and festivals, operates a Grammy Award-winning record label, produces a global podcast network and operates Comedy Central Radio on SiriusXM. In May 2019, Comedy Central launched Comedy Central Productions, a new studio-production arm partnering with comedy’s best writers, producers and on-screen talent to develop and distribute compelling, premium comedy content on all platforms. In June 2019, Comedy Central hosted its third annual Clusterfest, a three-day festival in San Francisco featuring world-class standup comedy, live music and experiential activities. Internationally, Comedy Central hosted the experiential events FriendsFest and Comedy Central Fest in a number of international markets.
Comedy Central’s strategic partnership with Trevor Noah’s production company, Day Zero Productions, gives us exclusive “first-look” rights on all projects developed by Day Zero Productions across television, feature films, digital and short-form video content.
Paramount Network is a premium entertainment destination targeting adults 18 to 49 with original scripted and non-scripted series inspired by over a century of cinema, with stories that are immersive, inclusive and deeply personal. Programming highlights in 2019 included Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner and written and directed by critically-acclaimed screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, which in its second season was cable’s most-watched scripted cable series of the summer. The network also featured the premiere of competition series The Last Cowboy, I Am Patrick Swayze, the most-watched episode of the network’s I Am documentary series, and new episodes of Ink Master, Bar Rescue and Bellator MMA.
VH1 is a leading pop culture brand for adults 18 to 49 with an array of digital channels and services, including the VH1 app, VH1.com and @VH1. Programming highlights in 2019 included the critically-acclaimed original series RuPaul’s Drag Race, which received 14 Emmy® nominations and won four, including outstanding competition program and outstanding host; new series Girls’ Cruise with Lil’ Kim; and returning hits Love & Hip Hop, Black Ink Crew and Basketball Wives.
TV Land features a mix of original programming, classic and contemporary television shows and specials that appeal to adults aged 25 to 54. Programming highlights in 2019 included the sixth season of Darren Star’s hit original series Younger, which was the number one rated ad-supported cable original sitcom among female viewers 18 to 49 and 25 to 54 for the third consecutive year.
CMT is a leading country music and lifestyle destination, offering a mix of original series, music events and specials. Programming highlights in 2019 included the launch of Racing Wives; returning favorite Dallas Cowboys
Cheerleaders; and tentpole events and music programming such as the CMT Music Awards, CMT Artists of the Year, CMT Hot 20 Countdown and CMT Crossroads.
Smithsonian Channel features series and documentaries of a cultural, historical, and scientific nature. Smithsonian Channel content is available via MVPDs and virtual MVPDs in the U.S. and versions of Smithsonian Channel are distributed in Canada, Singapore, Brazil, Latin America, Africa, Asia and the UK. The website SmithsonianChannel.com™ and various apps promote Smithsonian Channel programming and provide information and entertainment services. Smithsonian Channel Plus is a streaming subscription service that allows subscribers to view on-demand programming, including 4K Ultra HD series and documentaries.
Pop TV is a general entertainment basic cable service focused on producing and licensing popular culture programming, such as the Emmy®-nominated original series Schitt’s Creek and Critics Choice Award®-nominated original series One Day at a Time, and licensed CBS programming, including NCIS: New Orleans and Scorpion. Pop TV is also available via the Pop Now app.
Network 10 is one of the three major free-to-air commercial broadcast networks in Australia. Network 10 includes the channels 10™, 10 Bold™ and 10 Peach™, which broadcast a mix of entertainment, drama, news and sports programming, such as Australian Survivor, Have You Been Paying Attention? and The Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix. Network 10 also includes the digital platforms 10 Play™, 10 Daily™ as well as 10 All Access, our streaming subscription service in Australia featuring Network 10 programming as well as our other programming.
Channel 5, a free-to-air PSB in the UK, and its affiliated channels air a broad mix of popular content, including factual programming, entertainment, reality, sports, acquired and original drama, and preschool programming through its award-winning Milkshake! brand. Programming highlights in 2019 included new dramas 15 Days, Blood and Agatha and the Truth of Murder, documentaries including RTS Programme Award winner The Abused and Suicidal: In Our Own Words, and critically acclaimed factual shows such as Critical Condition and Warship: Life at Sea.
Telefe is a leading free-to-air channel and one of the biggest content producers in Argentina, with 11 studios and more than 3,500 hours of content produced each year. Telefe studios co-produced four films in 2019. Programming highlights in 2019 included La Voz Argentina (a local version of The Voice), Por el Mundo, 100 Días Para Enamorarse, PH: Podemos Hablar, Pequeña Victoria and Quien Quiere Ser Millonario (local version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire).
Paramount+ is an advertising-free, premium video-on-demand service, featuring films from Paramount Pictures and hundreds of television episodes from ViacomCBS’ library. Available as an authenticated service or to customers of select subscription service providers, as of December 2019, Paramount+ was available in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Hungary, Poland and across Latin America.
COLORS is a highly-rated Hindi-language general entertainment pay television channel operated by our Viacom18 joint venture in India. COLORS is available in India and over 120 additional countries, including in the U.S. as Aapka Colors. COLORS also extends to the English language through COLORS Infinity, an English general entertainment channel, six Indian regional languages and two Hindi channels, COLORS Rishtey and COLORS Cineplex in the entertainment and movie space, respectively. Programming highlights in 2019 included the first season of Dance Deewane, a dance reality show; returning seasons of Bigg Boss, Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi, Naagin, Rising Star (India’s first-ever live singing reality show) and India’s Got Talent; and the 19th edition of the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards, Bollywood’s biggest awards extravaganza.
Viacom18 Studios, Viacom18’s filmed entertainment business, includes Viacom18 Motion Pictures, a fully-integrated motion pictures studio, and Tipping Point, a digital content unit. Viacom18 Motion Pictures also partners with Paramount to market and distribute Paramount films for theatrical exhibition in the Indian sub-continent.
Pluto TV is a leading free streaming TV platform in the U.S. Pluto TV is available across mobile devices, desktops, streaming players and game consoles and is integrated across a growing number of Smart TVs and other video and broadband platforms.
With more than 22 million monthly active users in the U.S., the majority of whom are on connected TVs, and over 175 content partners, Pluto TV offers over 250 live linear channels and thousands of hours of on-demand content, including movies, news, sports, general entertainment, African Americans, kids and digital series. In July 2019, Pluto
TV launched Pluto TV Latino, a suite of 22 channels streaming over 4,000 hours of programming in Spanish and Portuguese, including hit TV series and movies, sports, reality, lifestyle and more. In addition, Pluto TV is available in the UK, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and plans to expand to Latin America and additional territories.
Our Filmed Entertainment segment develops, produces, finances, acquires and distributes films, television programming and other entertainment content in various markets and media worldwide through its Paramount Pictures, Paramount Players, Paramount Animation and Paramount Television Studios divisions. It partners on various projects with key ViacomCBS brands, including Nickelodeon Movies, MTV Films® and BET Films™.
Films produced, acquired and/or distributed by the Filmed Entertainment segment are generally first exhibited theatrically in domestic and/or international markets and then released in various markets through airlines and hotels, electronic sell-through, DVDs and Blu-ray discs, transactional video-on-demand (“TVOD”), pay television, SVOD, basic cable television, free television and free video-on-demand (“FVOD”).
Our Filmed Entertainment segment’s revenues are generated primarily from the release and/or distribution of films theatrically, the release and/or distribution of film and television product through home entertainment, the licensing of film and television product to television and digital platforms and other ancillary activities. In 2019, our Filmed Entertainment segment licensing revenues, home entertainment revenues and theatrical revenues were approximately 57%, 21% and 18%, respectively, of total revenues for this segment. Our Filmed Entertainment segment generated 10%, 11% and 12% of our consolidated revenues in 2019, 2018 and 2017, respectively.
Paramount Pictures is a major global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment and has an extensive library consisting of approximately 1,300 film titles produced by Paramount, acquired rights to approximately 2,100 additional films and a number of television programs. Paramount’s library includes many Academy Award winners, including Titanic, Braveheart, Forrest Gump, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II and Wings, which won the first Academy Award ever awarded for Best Picture in 1929. The Paramount library also includes other Academy Award Best Picture nominees such as Arrival, Fences, The Big Short, Selma and The Wolf of Wall Street, classics such as The Ten Commandments, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sunset Boulevard, and a number of successful franchises such as Mission: Impossible, Transformers, Star Trek and Paranormal Activity. In 2019, Paramount’s theatrical releases included Terminator: Dark Fate, Rocketman, Gemini Man, Pet Sematary, Crawl and Playing with Fire.
Paramount Players aims to expand Paramount’s slate of films by partnering with our Cable Networks brands to develop, produce and release distinctive feature films that showcase the network brands to movie audiences worldwide. Paramount Players also focuses on modest budget films of specific genres for target audiences. In 2019, Paramount
Players produced Dora and the Lost City of Gold, a live-action adaptation of the classic Nickelodeon series Dora the Explorer, co-produced with Nickelodeon Movies.
Paramount Animation creates high-quality animated films and aims to release one to two titles per year. In 2019, Paramount Animation released Wonder Park, a film about the adventures of a young girl in a magical amusement park.
Paramount Television Studios develops and finances a wide range of original, premium television content across all types of media platforms for distribution worldwide. Paramount Television Studios’ productions include Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan for Amazon; 13 Reasons Why for Netflix; The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness for TNT; Catch-22 for Hulu; Defending Jacob for Apple; Boomerang and First Wives Club for BET and BET+, respectively; and Berlin Station for EPIX. In 2019, Paramount Television Studios’ programming received seven Emmy® nominations.
Film Production, Distribution and Financing
Paramount produces many of the films it releases and also acquires films for distribution from third parties. In some cases, Paramount co-finances and/or co-distributes films with third parties, including other studios. Paramount also enters into film-specific financing and slate financing arrangements from time to time under which third parties participate in the financing of the costs of a film or group of films in exchange for an economic participation and a partial copyright interest. Paramount distributes films worldwide or in select territories or media, and may engage third-party distributors for certain pictures in certain territories.
Paramount has several multi-picture production, distribution and financing relationships, including its agreement with Skydance Productions (“Skydance”), under which Paramount and Skydance produce and finance certain films, and Paramount has a first look on Skydance-initiated projects. Paramount also has an agreement with Hasbro Inc. (“Hasbro”) involving the production, financing and distribution of live action and animated films based on Hasbro’s expansive list of properties. In December 2019, in connection with ViacomCBS’ entry into an agreement to acquire a 49% interest in Miramax, Paramount and Miramax entered into first-look, co-financing and distribution agreements under which they will collaborate on production and financing of new film and television projects, and Paramount will distribute such new projects, as well as Miramax library content.
Domestically, Paramount generally performs marketing and distribution services for theatrical releases and sales and marketing services for its home entertainment releases. Paramount has an agreement with Universal Studios for certain back-office and distribution services for all physical DVD and Blu-ray discs released by Paramount in the U.S. and Canada. Paramount also distributes CBS’ television and other library content and Nickelodeon television shows on DVD and Blu-ray disc on a worldwide basis. Internationally, Paramount generally distributes its theatrical releases through its own international affiliates or, in territories where it does not have an operating presence, through United International Pictures, a joint venture with Universal Studios. For home entertainment releases, Paramount’s physical DVD and Blu-ray discs are distributed in certain international territories by Universal Pictures Home
Entertainment and in certain other territories by Paramount licensees. Paramount also distributes films and television shows domestically and internationally on electronic sell-through, TVOD, SVOD, FVOD and television platforms. In the first domestic pay television distribution window, Paramount’s feature films initially theatrically released in the U.S. are generally exhibited on EPIX.
Producing, marketing and distributing films and television programming can involve significant costs, and the timing of a film’s release can cause our financial results to vary. For example, marketing costs are generally incurred before and throughout the theatrical release of a film and, to a lesser extent, other distribution windows, and are expensed as incurred. As a result, we typically incur losses with respect to a particular film prior to and during the film’s theatrical exhibition, and recoupment of investment as well as profitability for the film may not be realized until well after its theatrical release. Therefore, the results of the Filmed Entertainment segment can be volatile as films work their way through the various distribution windows.
Our Publishing segment consists of Simon & Schuster, which publishes and distributes adult and children’s consumer books in printed, digital and audio formats in the U.S. and internationally. Its digital formats include electronic books and audio books.
Simon & Schuster’s major adult imprints include Simon & Schuster, Scribner, Atria Books and Gallery Books. Simon & Schuster’s major children’s imprints include Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers™, Aladdin® and Little Simon®. Simon & Schuster also develops special imprints and publishes titles based on the products of certain of our businesses as well as those of third parties and distributes products for other publishers. Simon & Schuster distributes its products directly and through third parties. Simon & Schuster also delivers content and promotes its products on its own websites, social media, and general Internet sites as well as those dedicated to individual titles. International publishing includes the international distribution of English-language titles through Simon & Schuster in the UK, Canada, Australia and India and other distributors, as well as the publication of locally originated titles by its international companies.
In 2019, Simon & Schuster had 200 New York Times bestsellers in hardcover, paperback, audio and combined print and ebook formats, collectively, including 21 New York Times #1 bestsellers. Best-selling titles in 2019 included Howard Stern Comes Again by Howard Stern, The Institute by Stephen King and The Pioneers by David McCullough. Best-selling children’s titles included Dork Diaries 14: Tales from a Not-So-Best Friend Forever by Rachel Renée Russell and Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare. Simon & Schuster Digital™, through SimonandSchuster.com, publishes original content, builds reader communities and promotes and sells Simon & Schuster’s books over the Internet.
Our Publishing segment’s revenues are generated from the publishing and distribution of consumer books in print, digital and audio formats. In 2019, the sale of digital content represented approximately 25% of Publishing’s revenues. Our Publishing segment generated 3% of our consolidated revenues in each of 2019, 2018 and 2017.
Our TV Entertainment, Cable Networks, Filmed Entertainment and Publishing segments generate advertising revenues, affiliate revenues, content licensing revenues, theatrical revenues and publishing revenues. For additional information regarding our sources of revenues, see “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Results of Operations and Financial Condition – Consolidated Results of Operations – 2019 vs. 2018 – Revenues” and “Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data – Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements.” For information regarding seasonal factors affecting our revenues, see “Item 1A. Risk Factors – Our revenues, expenses and operating
results may vary based on the timing, mix, number and availability of our films and other programming and on seasonal factors.”
Advertising revenues are generated primarily from the sale of advertising spots on the CBS Television Network, our basic cable networks and our television stations, as well as on our ad-supported streaming services, including CBS All Access and Pluto TV, and on our websites. Our advertising revenues include integrated marketing services, which provide unique branded content and custom sponsorship opportunities to our advertisers, as well as advanced marketing solutions, including addressable video and brand solutions.
Affiliate revenues are principally comprised of fees received from MVPDs and virtual MVPDs for carriage of our cable networks, fees received from television stations affiliated with the CBS Television Network, fees for authorizing the MVPDs’ and virtual MVPDs’ carriage of our owned television stations, and subscription fees for our streaming services.
Content licensing revenues are principally comprised of fees from the licensing of exhibition rights for our internally-produced television and film programming to television stations, cable networks and SVOD and FVOD services; home entertainment revenues, which are derived from the sale and distribution of our content through DVDs and Blu-ray discs to wholesale and retail partners, as well as from the viewing of our content on a transactional basis through TVOD and electronic sell-through services; fees from the use of our trademarks and brands for consumer products, recreation and live events, and fees from the distribution of third-party programming.
Theatrical revenues are principally comprised of the worldwide theatrical distribution of films through audience ticket sales.
Publishing revenues are principally comprised of the domestic and international publishing and distribution of consumer books in printed, digital and audio formats.
All of our businesses operate in highly competitive environments, and compete for creative talent and intellectual property, as well as audience and distribution of our content.
Our TV Entertainment, Cable Networks and Filmed Entertainment segments compete with a variety of media companies that have substantial resources to produce and acquire content worldwide, including broadcast networks, basic and premium cable networks, streaming services, film and television studios, production groups, independent producers and syndicators, television stations and television station groups. These segments compete with other content creators for creative talent including producers, directors, actors and writers, as well as for new program ideas and intellectual property and for the acquisition of popular programming. Similarly, our Publishing segment competes with large publishers for the rights to works by authors, and competition is particularly strong for well-known authors and public personalities.
Our businesses also face significant competition for audience share from various sources. Our Filmed Entertainment segment competes for audiences for its theatrical films with releases by other major film studios, television producers and streaming services as well as with other forms of entertainment and consumer spending
outlets. Our TV Entertainment and Cable Networks segments compete for audiences and advertising revenues primarily with other cable and broadcast television networks; social media platforms; websites, apps and other online experiences; radio programming; and print media. In addition, our television and basic cable networks businesses face increasing competition from technologies providing digital audio and visual content in ways that allow audiences to consume content of their choosing while avoiding traditional commercial advertising. Moreover, our businesses face competition from the many other entertainment options available to consumers including video games, sports, travel and outdoor recreation.
We also face competition for distribution of our content. Our TV Entertainment and Cable Networks segments compete for distribution of our program services (and receipt of related fees) with other broadcast networks, cable networks and programmers. The CBS Television Network also competes with other broadcast networks to secure affiliations with independently owned television stations to ensure the effective distribution of network programming nationwide. Our TV Entertainment, Cable Networks and Filmed Entertainment segments compete with studios and other producers of entertainment content for distribution on third party platforms. Our Publishing segment competes with large publishers for sales to retailers, and mass merchandisers and on-line retailers have contributed to a general trend toward consolidation in the retail channel. In addition, the growth of the electronic book market has impacted print book retailers and wholesalers, and could result in a reduction of these channels for the sales and marketing of our books.
For additional information regarding competition, see “Item 1A. Risk Factors – Our businesses operate in industries that are highly competitive and swiftly consolidating.”
ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL AND GOVERNANCE STRATEGY
ViacomCBS is committed to responsible and sustainable business practices, which strengthen our ability to innovate and better serve our partners, audiences and stockholders. We are proactively identifying, measuring and mapping the environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) impacts of our global operations and are working to manage and report on various non-financial ESG impacts in an effort to transparently address them with stakeholders.
As content creators, we are passionate about entertaining and informing the world and are committed to our legacy of creating lasting impact through our work. From groundbreaking HIV awareness initiatives to campaigns supporting education, the empowerment of women and youth, health issues and the military, veterans and their families, we have always strived to be at the forefront of championing the causes that matter to our audiences. Today, we continue to leverage our brands and our global reach to amplify the efforts of those who are working to make positive changes in their communities. Striving to be a good corporate citizen and to make a positive impact in communities around the world is fundamental to what we do every day. Below are just a few examples of our efforts:
We continue to use the immense power of our media platforms to heighten social awareness on important issues through our award-winning CBS Cares public service announcement (“PSA”) campaigns. In 2019, the CBS Television Network scheduled CBS Cares PSAs with an estimated value of $276 million and featuring a wide array of CBS talent on a variety of important topics such as heritage and history months, child advocacy, empowerment of women and girls, support for the military, veterans and their families, and health awareness. Examples include:
We and Girls Inc. created a PSA that aired in-game during the CBS Television Network’s Super Bowl LIII coverage, and post-game on the CBS Sports Network. Featuring the voiceover of CBS This Morning’s Gayle King and players from the NY Giants, the PSA encourages girls to believe they can succeed at the highest levels.
We produce and air annual PSAs as part of our commitment to honor the victims of the Holocaust on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
We and the Association of National Advertisers again teamed up for a multi-pronged partnership in support of the #SeeHer initiative to accurately portray girls and women in media. Supporting PSAs ran in primetime as part of Women’s History Month and featured Norah O’Donnell, Gayle King, Tea Leoni, Carrie Ann Inaba and others.
CBS Cares tackled the issue of sexual harassment, by continuing to air PSAs featuring Bridget Moynahan, Daniela Ruah and Aisha Tyler.
PSAs featuring Shemar Moore, Aisha Tyler, Sara Gilbert and Sheryl Underwood continued to air, teaching children about the importance of other cultures, races and religions, and emphasizing that we are all enriched by our differences.
Get Schooled inspires and empowers students nationwide to thrive in high school, college and their first jobs through a unique blend of powerful digital content, gamification and personalized support. In its 10-year history, Get Schooled has partnered with over 15,000 educators and their students, and has been recognized by Fast Company as a “Most Innovative Company.”
The Save The Music Foundation helps kids, schools, and communities realize their full potential through the power of making music. Founded in 1997, Save The Music partners with school districts and raises funds to restore music programs in public schools. Since inception, we have donated over $58 million worth of new musical instruments and technology to 2,159 schools in 276 school districts around the country, impacting the lives of countless students.
Beyond the Backpack is a celebration of Nickelodeon’s curriculum-based preschool properties. The initiative champions kindergarten and pre-k readiness by providing fun, simple and unique tools to address the five areas identified as critical to educational success: Family Engagement, Health & Wellness, Literacy Skills, Social & Emotional Skills, and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) Skills. Beyond the Backpack reinforces the academic community’s view that parents and caregivers are their child's first teachers and that it is never too early to start getting ready. In 2019, Nickelodeon donated 75,000 printed toolkits and 2,500 backpacks full of school supplies.
Paramount has a long and proud tradition of giving back with a corporate social responsibility program focused on four key initiatives: supporting public education; protecting the environment; combating HIV/AIDS; and promoting volunteerism. By offering employee engagement opportunities, coupled with financial and in-kind contributions, Paramount supports numerous local, national, and global non-profit organizations. Kindergarten to Cap & Gown - Paramount’s signature education program - mentors students through their educational experience, targeting four partner schools in Paramount’s Los Angeles neighborhood.
In 2019, Paramount Network debuted the first installments of Take Action - a short-form digital documentary series addressing important social issues related to our content themes. We believe that stories of individual volunteers and activists have the power to connect us, inspire action and, ultimately, create real change. Each film includes a call-to-action, partnering with a nonprofit organization to give the audience the opportunity to learn more and take action themselves.
The MTV Staying Alive Foundation produces multi-award-winning, impactful behavior change campaigns to further its purpose of storytelling to save lives and enable young people to make empowered, informed choices about their health and wellbeing.
Our robust Veterans Network (“VetNet”) engages in multiple programs and supports numerous veteran-related causes. Among its activities in 2019, VetNet worked with our legal teams to provide more than 4,000 hours of critical, pro-bono legal assistance to more than 200 veterans and their families, representing approximately $1.5 million of legal fees donated; hosted a virtual career advice event for veterans in partnership with American Corporate Partners; worked with partners to provide mentorship and internships for 850 veterans; and collected more than 100,000 donations, including toys for veteran families and toiletries for the homeless.
REGULATION AND PROTECTION OF OUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
We are, fundamentally, a content company, so the trademark, copyright, patent and other intellectual property laws that protect our brands and content are of paramount importance to us. Our businesses and the intellectual property they create or acquire are subject to and affected by laws and regulations of U.S. federal, state and local governmental authorities, as well as laws and regulations of countries other than the U.S. and pan-national bodies such as the European Union (“EU”). The laws and regulations affecting our businesses are constantly subject to change, as are the protections that those laws and regulations afford us. The discussion below describes certain, but not all, present and proposed laws and regulations affecting our businesses.
FCC and Similar Regulation
General. Broadcast television and certain aspects of cable programming are subject to the jurisdiction of the FCC pursuant to the Communications Act. The Communications Act empowers the FCC, among other actions, to issue, renew, revoke and modify broadcasting licenses; penalize broadcasters for airing indecent or profane content; regulate the airing of emergency alerting and the use of emergency alerting tones by broadcasters or cable channels; require video programming to be accessible to persons with disabilities; determine stations’ frequencies, locations and operating power; and impose penalties for violation of its regulations, including monetary forfeitures, short-term renewal of licenses and, in egregious cases, license revocation or denial of license renewals.
Under the Communications Act, the FCC also regulates certain aspects of the operation of MVPDs and certain other electronic media that compete with broadcast stations and cable programming.
We provide below a brief summary of certain laws and FCC regulations under which we operate.
License Renewals. Television broadcast licenses are typically granted for standard terms of eight years. The Communications Act requires the FCC to renew a broadcast license if the FCC finds that the station has served the public interest, convenience and necessity and, with respect to the station, there have been no serious violations by the licensee of either the Communications Act or the FCC’s rules and regulations and there have been no other violations by the licensee of the Communications Act or the FCC’s rules and regulations that, taken together, constitute a pattern of abuse. We have no pending renewal applications, but we will be filing renewal applications with respect to all of our stations on a staggered basis between 2020 and 2023. A station remains authorized to operate while its license renewal application is pending.
License Assignments and Transfers of Licensee Control. The Communications Act requires prior FCC approval for the assignment of a license or transfer of control of an FCC licensee. Third parties may oppose our applications to assign, acquire, or transfer control of broadcast licenses.
Ownership Regulation. The Communications Act and FCC rules and regulations limit the ability of individuals and entities to have certain official positions or ownership interests, known as “attributable” interests, above specific levels in broadcast stations. In seeking FCC approval for the acquisition of a broadcast station license, the acquiring person or entity must demonstrate that the acquisition complies with the FCC’s ownership rules or that a waiver of the rules is in the public interest.
Below are descriptions of broadcast ownership rules. The FCC is reviewing its local television ownership and dual network rules through its most recent quadrennial review that commenced in November 2018 and is separately reviewing its television national audience reach rule. The FCC had relaxed certain of these rules in 2017, but in November 2019, a federal appellate court vacated that 2017 action and ordered the FCC to conduct further proceedings.
Local Television Ownership. The FCC’s local television ownership rule limits the number of full-power television stations that may be commonly owned in the same DMA. For example, common ownership of two full-power stations in a market generally is allowed only if at least eight independently owned and operating full-power stations will remain in the market following the acquisition of the second station, and if at least one of the stations is outside of the top-four ranked stations in the market based on audience share.
Dual Network Rule. The dual network rule prohibits any of the four major networks, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, from combining or being under common control.
Television National Audience Reach Limitation. Under the national television ownership rule, one party may not own television stations that reach more than 39% of all U.S. television households, although under current FCC rules a UHF station is attributed with reaching only 50% of the television households in its market. In December 2017, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking pursuant to which it will consider modifying, retaining or eliminating the 39% national television audience reach limitation and/or the UHF
discount. We currently own and operate television stations that reach approximately 38% or 25% of all U.S. television households on an undiscounted or discounted basis, respectively.
Cross-ownership restrictions. FCC “cross-ownership” rules reinstated as a result of a decision by a federal appellate court (a) prohibit common ownership of one or more broadcast stations (whether radio or television) and a daily newspaper in the same DMA, and (b) limit the number of radio and television broadcast stations that may be commonly owned in a given DMA. We do not currently own cognizable interests in any daily newspapers or radio broadcast stations.
Alien Ownership. In general, the Communications Act restricts foreign individuals or entities from collectively owning more than 25% of our voting power or equity. FCC approval is required to exceed the 25% threshold. The FCC has recently approved foreign ownership levels of up to 100% in certain instances, subsequent to its review and approval of specific, named foreign individuals.
Cable and Satellite Carriage of Television Broadcast Stations. The Communications Act and FCC rules govern the retransmission of broadcast television stations by cable system operators, direct broadcast satellite operators, and other MVPDs. Pursuant to these regulations, we have elected to negotiate with MVPDs for the right to carry our broadcast television stations pursuant to retransmission consent agreements. Federal law requires that broadcasters and MVPDs negotiate in good faith for retransmission consent. Some MVPDs have sought changes to federal law that would eliminate or otherwise limit the ability of broadcasters to obtain fair compensation for the grant of retransmission consent.
National Broadband Plan/Post-Auction Repack. In 2017, the FCC concluded a series of voluntary auctions to repurpose certain spectrum then utilized by broadcast television stations for use by wireless broadband services. The FCC has mandated that certain television stations that are continuing to operate subsequent to these auctions must change their channels as the FCC “repacks” the remaining spectrum dedicated to broadcast television use. Congress provided that the FCC will assist television stations in retaining their current coverage areas and established a fund to at least partially reimburse broadcasters for reasonable relocation expenses relating to the spectrum-repacking. Certain broadcast television stations, including some of those owned by us, are in the process of undertaking this repacking process and seeking reimbursement of associated costs.
Program Regulation. The FCC’s rules prohibit the broadcast of obscene material at any time and indecent or profane material between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The FCC’s maximum forfeiture penalty per station for broadcasting indecent or profane programming is approximately $415,000 per indecent or profane utterance, with a maximum forfeiture exposure of approximately $3.83 million for any continuing violation arising from a single act or failure to act. FCC regulations also prohibit broadcast television stations and cable networks from transmitting or causing the transmission of Emergency Alert System (“EAS”) tones in the absence of an actual emergency, authorized test of the EAS, or a qualified public service announcement. In September 2019, the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture finding that a CBS Television Network program broadcast in April 2018 violated the EAS rule and imposed a forfeiture of $272,000, which we timely paid.
Broadcast Transmission Standard. In November 2017, the FCC adopted rules to permit television broadcasters to voluntarily broadcast using the “Next Generation” broadcast television transmission standard developed by the Advanced Television Systems Committee, Inc., also called “ATSC 3.0.” Those full-service television stations using the new standard are subject to certain requirements, including the obligation to continue broadcasting a generally identical program stream in the current ATSC 1.0 broadcast standard. The ATSC 3.0 standard can be used to offer better picture quality and improved mobile broadcast viewing. A television station converting to ATSC 3.0 operation will incur significant costs in equipment purchases and upgrades. In addition, consumers may be required to obtain new television sets or other equipment that are capable of receiving ATSC 3.0 broadcasts. We are participating in various ATSC 3.0 testing with other broadcasters, but it is too early to predict any impact of this technical standard on our operations.
Children’s Programming. Our business is subject to various regulations, both in the U.S. and abroad, applicable to children’s programming. Since 1990, federal legislation and rules of the FCC have limited the amount and content
of commercial matter that may be shown on broadcast television stations and cable channels during programming designed for children 12 years of age and younger, and since 2006 the FCC has limited the display of certain commercial website addresses during children’s programming. Moreover, each of our broadcast television stations is required to air, in general, three hours per week of educational and informational programming (“E/I programming”) designed for children 16 years of age and younger, with at least two of those three hours appearing on the station’s primary program stream. The FCC made certain modifications to its E/I programming rules in 2019, which provided additional flexibility to broadcasters with respect to certain aspects of these rules.
In addition, some policymakers have sought limitations on food and beverage marketing in media popular with children and teens. For example, restrictions on the television advertising of foods high in fat, salt and sugar (“HFSS”) to children aged 15 and under have been in place in the UK since 2007. The UK government is currently considering tighter controls, including a ban on all HFSS advertising before 9:00 p.m. Various laws with similar objectives have also been enacted in Ireland, Turkey, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Taiwan and South Korea, and significant pressure for similar restrictions continues to be felt globally, most acutely in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, India, Hungary, Singapore, South Africa and France. The implementation of these or similar limitations and restrictions could have a negative impact on our Cable Networks advertising revenues, particularly for our networks with programming for children and teens.
Certain Other Regulations Affecting Our Business
Global Data Protection Laws and Children’s Privacy Laws. A number of data protection laws impact, or may impact, the manner in which ViacomCBS collects, processes and transfers personal data. In the EU, the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) mandates data protection compliance obligations and authorizes significant fines for noncompliance, requiring significant compliance resources and efforts on our part. Further, a number of other regions where we do business, including the U.S., Asia and Latin America, have enacted or are considering new data protection regulations that may impact our business activities that involve the processing of personal data. For example, in the U.S., the California Consumer Privacy Act, which went into effect on January 1, 2020, creates a host of new obligations for businesses regarding how they handle the personal information of California residents, including creating new data access, data deletion and opt out rights. In addition, some of the mechanisms ViacomCBS relies upon for the transfer of personal data from the EU to the U.S., such as utilizing standard contractual clauses approved by the European Commission (“EC”), have been subject to legal challenges, and the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework, which permits the transfer of personal data from the EU to the U.S., is subject to review by the relevant EU and U.S. authorities. The outcomes of these proceedings are uncertain and may require changes to our international data transfer mechanisms.
In addition, we are subject to other laws and regulations intended specifically to protect the interests of children, including the privacy of minors online. The U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) limits the collection by operators of websites or online services of personal information online from children under the age of 13. In July 2019, the Federal Trade Commission initiated a review of its regulations implementing COPPA, which we anticipate will be updated to address changes in technology. In the EU, GDPR also limits our ability to process data from children under the age of 16. Such regulations also restrict the types of advertising we are able to sell on these sites and apps and impose strict liability on us for certain actions of ViacomCBS, advertisers and other third parties, which could affect advertising demand and pricing. State and federal policymakers are also considering regulatory and legislative methods to protect consumer privacy on the Internet, and these efforts have focused particular attention on children and teens.
Compliance with enhanced data protection laws, which may be inconsistent with one another, requires additional resources and efforts on our part, and noncompliance with personal data protection regulations could result in increased regulatory enforcement and significant monetary fines.
EU Commission’s Digital Single Market Strategy. The EU continues to pursue its Digital Single Market (“DSM”) Strategy, which contains a broad range of proposals designed to create a more complete EU-wide market for digital goods and services, several of which are likely to impact ViacomCBS’ businesses.
In November 2018, the EU adopted a number of reforms to the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (the “AVMSD”), which sets content and advertising rules for European broadcasters. The AVMSD applies the country-of-origin principle to linear and non-linear TV services, enabling cross-border broadcasts from a single regulatory jurisdiction, and sets compulsory minimum pan-EU content and advertising rules that Member States may choose to exceed. These reforms include a mandatory quota for European works on on-demand audiovisual services platforms, the option for EU states to introduce levies on the revenues of audiovisual media-service providers, and liberalized rules governing the scheduling of advertising on linear broadcasters. Member States have until September 2020 to transpose the reforms into national law. These changes could impact revenues for the VCNI television channels business in Europe and affiliate deals with platforms for both film and TV distribution.
In June 2019, two new EU directives became effective and may impact the way we acquire and distribute content online. The Copyright Directive introduced a requirement to agree to terms for the carriage of copyrighted content on online platforms (or to remove content in the absence of such agreement), and also granted rights to authors and performers to “fair and proportionate” remuneration, greater transparency and a right to revoke agreements if their work is not adequately exploited. The Online Broadcasting Directive extends the system of mandatory collective exercise of cable retransmission rights to other forms of retransmission including Internet protocol television and mobile, thereby potentially reducing the control that rights owners have over online distribution. EU states have until June 2021 to transpose these Directives into national law, if similar provisions do not already exist.
In 2020, the EU will evaluate the impact of the 2018 EC Geo-blocking Regulation that prohibits unjustified geo-blocking and other forms of discrimination based on customers’ nationality, place of residence or place of establishment. As part of its evaluation, it will consider whether the scope of the regulation should be extended to services that offer audio-visual and other copyrighted content, which may impact content owners’ ability to distribute on an exclusive, territorial basis within the EU.
Restrictions on Content Distribution. In addition to the EU, numerous countries around the world impose restrictions on the amount and nature of content that may be distributed in that country. Such regulations in China have the greatest impact, as only 34 foreign films, as selected by relevant authorities in China, may be distributed annually on a revenue share basis based on box office performance. In addition, in September 2018, China’s film and television regulator, the National Administration of TV and Radio, published proposed regulations that would severely limit the streaming and broadcasting of foreign film and television content in China, further reducing foreign access to the Chinese market.
UK Regulations Affecting Channel 5 Business. As a PSB in the UK, Channel 5 is subject to certain UK Office of Communications (“OFCOM”) broadcasting regulations that impose detailed obligations, including mandating the proportion of total programming and programming during peak hours that must be original productions, the hours devoted to news and current affairs and the proportion of commissioned programming that must be made by independent producers. Channel 5 has also undertaken to air a certain amount of UK-originated children’s programming. Like all UK broadcasters, Channel 5 must abide by the OFCOM Broadcasting Code, which contains content and scheduling regulations relating to harm and offense, protection of individuals under the age of 18, privacy, fairness and product placement, and by OFCOM’s Code on the Scheduling of Television Advertising, which contains regulations on the amount and scheduling of advertising.
Protecting our Content from Copyright Theft
The unauthorized reproduction, distribution, exhibition or other exploitation of copyrighted material interferes with the market for copyrighted works and disrupts our ability to distribute and monetize our content. The theft of films, television, books and other entertainment content presents a significant challenge to our industry, and we take a number of steps to address this concern. Where possible, we use technological protection tools, such as encryption, to protect our content. We are actively engaged in enforcement and other activities to protect our intellectual property, including: monitoring online destinations that distribute or otherwise infringe our content and sending takedown or cease and desist notices in appropriate circumstances; using filtering technologies employed by some user-generated content sites; and pursuing litigation and referrals to law enforcement with respect to websites and other online platforms that distribute or facilitate the distribution and exploitation of our content without authorization. Through
partnerships with various organizations, we also are actively involved in educational outreach to the creative community, state and federal government officials and other stakeholders in an effort to marshal greater resources to combat copyright theft. Additionally, we participate in various industry-wide enforcement initiatives, public relations programs and legislative activities on a worldwide basis. We have had notable success with site-blocking efforts in parts of Europe and Asia, which can be effective in diverting consumers from piracy platforms to legitimate platforms.
Notwithstanding these efforts and the many legal protections that exist to combat piracy, the proliferation of content theft and technological tools with which to carry it out continue to be a challenge. The failure to maintain enhanced legal protections and enforcement tools and to update those tools as threats evolve could make it more difficult for us to adequately protect our intellectual property, which could negatively impact its value and further increase the costs of enforcing our rights as we continue to expend substantial resources to protect our content.
We create, own and distribute intellectual property worldwide. It is our practice to protect our films, programs, content, brands, formats, characters, games, publications and other original and acquired works, and ancillary goods and services. The following brands, logos, trade names, trademarks and related trademark families are the most significant of those strongly identified with the product lines they represent and are significant assets of the Company: ViacomCBS™, CBS®, Viacom®, AwesomenessTV®, BET®, CBS All Access®, CBS Entertainment™, CBS Interactive®, CBS News®, CBS Sports®, CBSN®, Channel 5® (UK), CMT®, COLORS®, Comedy Central®, Flix®, MTV®, MTV Films®, Network 10®, Nickelodeon®, Nick at Nite®, Nickelodeon Movies™, Nick Jr.®, Paramount Animation®, Paramount Network®, Paramount Pictures®, Paramount Players™, Paramount Television Studios™, Pluto TV™, Pop TV™, Showtime®, Simon & Schuster®, Smithsonian Channel™, Telefe® (Argentina), The Movie Channel®, TV Land®, VH1®, VidCon®, WhoSay® and other domestic and international program services and digital properties and all the call letters for our stations.
As of December 31, 2019, we employed approximately 23,990 full-time and part-time employees worldwide, and had approximately 4,580 additional project-based staff on our payroll. We also use many other temporary employees in the ordinary course of our business.
We file annual, quarterly and current reports, proxy and information statements and other information with the SEC. Our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and any amendments to such reports filed with or furnished to the SEC pursuant to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, will be available free of charge on our website at www.viacbs.com (under “Investors”) as soon as reasonably practicable after the reports are filed with the SEC. These documents are also available on the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov.
CAUTIONARY STATEMENT CONCERNING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This Annual Report on Form 10-K, including “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Results of Operations and Financial Condition,” contains both historical and forward-looking statements. All statements that are not statements of historical fact are, or may be deemed to be, forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements reflect our current expectations concerning future results, objectives, plans and goals, and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that are difficult to predict and which may cause future results, performance or achievements to differ. These risks, uncertainties and other factors are discussed in “Item 1A. Risk Factors” below. Other risks, or updates to the risks discussed below, may be described in our news releases and filings with the SEC, including but not limited to our reports on Form 10-Q and Form 8-K. The forward-looking statements included in this document are made only as of the date of this document, and we do not have any obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent events or circumstances.
Item 1A. Risk Factors.
A wide range of risks may affect our business, financial condition or results of operations, now and in the future. We consider the risks described below to be the most significant. There may be other currently unknown or unpredictable factors that could have adverse effects on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Risks Relating to ViacomCBS’ Business and Industry
Changes in consumer behavior, as well as evolving technologies, distribution platforms and packaging, may negatively affect our business, financial condition or results of operations
The ways in which consumers view content, and technology and business models in our industry continue to evolve rapidly, and new distribution platforms, as well as increased competition from new entrants and emerging technologies, have added to the complexity of maintaining predictable revenue streams.
Technological advancements have driven changes in consumer behavior and empowered consumers to seek more control over when, where and how they consume content and have affected the options available to advertisers for reaching their target audiences. The evolution of consumer preferences towards digital services and other subscription services, and the substantial increase in availability of programming without advertising or adequate methodologies for audience measurement, may continue to have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations. Examples of the foregoing include the convergence of television telecasts and digital delivery of programming to televisions and other devices, video-on-demand platforms, tablets, new video and electronic book formats, user-generated content sites, unauthorized digital distribution of video content including via streaming and downloading, simultaneous live streaming of telecast content which allows users to consume content on demand and in remote locations while avoiding traditional commercial advertisements or subscription payments and “cloud-based” DVR storage.
In addition, consumers are increasingly using time-shifting and advertising-blocking technologies that enable users to fast-forward or circumvent advertisements, such as DVRs, or increase the sharing of subscription content and reduce the demand for electronic sell-through, DVD and Blu-ray disc products. Substantial use of these technologies could impact the attractiveness of our programming to advertisers, adversely affecting our advertising revenue. Our business also may be adversely affected by the use of antennas (and their integration with set-top boxes or other consumer devices) to access broadcast signals to avoid subscriptions and live and stored video streaming boxes and services, which deliver unauthorized copies of copyrighted content, including those emanating from other countries in various languages.
In response to perceived consumer demand, distributors of programming and program services are continuing to develop alternative offerings for consumers, including “skinny bundles,” smaller, often customizable programming packages delivered at lower costs than traditional offerings; SVOD and other subscription services; ad-supported FVOD services developed by television manufacturers, cable providers and others; and original programming hosted on mobile and social media platforms. Also, the impact of technological changes on MVPDs may adversely affect our cable networks’ ability to grow revenue. If these alternative offerings continue to gain traction and our networks and brands are not included in those packages and services, or if consumers increasingly favor alternative offerings over traditional broadcast television and cable subscriptions, we may continue to experience a decline in viewership and ultimately demand for our programming, which could lead to lower revenues. These changing distribution models may also impact our ability to negotiate carriage deals on terms favorable to us, thereby having an adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
In order to respond to these developments, we regularly consider and from time to time implement changes to our business models and strategies to remain competitive, and there can be no assurance that we will successfully anticipate or respond to these developments, that we will not experience disruption as we respond to such developments, or that the business models we develop will be as profitable as our current business models.
Our advertising revenues have been and may continue to be adversely impacted by changes in consumers’ content viewership, deficiencies in audience measurement and advertising market conditions
We derive substantial revenues from the sale of advertising on a variety of platforms, and a decline in advertising revenues could have a significant adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations in any given period.
Consumers are increasingly turning to online sources for viewing and purchasing content, and an increasing number of companies offer SVOD services, including some that offer exclusive high-quality original video programming delivered directly to consumers over the Internet. Consumers are also using new technologies that allow customers to live stream and time shift programming, make and store digital copies and skip or fast-forward through advertisements. The increasing number of entertainment choices available to consumers has intensified audience fragmentation and reduced the viewing of content through traditional MVPDs and virtual MVPDs, which has caused, and likely will continue to cause, audience ratings declines for our cable networks and may adversely affect the pricing and volume of advertising. In addition, the pricing and volume of advertising may be affected by shifts in spending toward digital and mobile offerings, which can deliver targeted advertising promptly, from more traditional media, or toward newer ways of purchasing advertising, such as through automated purchasing, dynamic advertising insertion, third parties selling local advertising spots and advertising exchanges, some or all of which may not be as beneficial to us as traditional advertising methods.
In addition, advertising sales are largely dependent on audience measurement, and the results of audience measurement techniques can vary for a variety of reasons, including the platforms on which viewing is measured and variations in the statistical sampling methods used. The use of evolving ratings technologies and measurements, and viewership on platforms or devices, such as tablets, smart phones and other mobile devices, that are not being fully measured, could have an impact on our program ratings and advertising revenues. Also, consumer viewership of streaming services continues to grow and is under measured. Low ratings can lead to lower pricing and advertising spending. While Nielsen’s statistical sampling method is the primary measurement technique used in our television advertising sales, we measure and monetize our campaign reach and frequency on and across digital platforms based on other third-party data as well as first-party data using a variety of methods, including the number of impressions served and demographics. In addition, multi-platform campaign verification remains in its infancy, and viewership on tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices, which continues to grow rapidly, still is not measured by any one consistently applied method. These variations and changes could have a significant effect on our advertising revenues. There can be no assurance that any replacement programming on our television stations will generate the same level of revenues or profitability as previous programming.
The strength of the advertising market can fluctuate in response to the economic prospects of specific advertisers or industries, advertisers’ current spending priorities and the economy in general or the economy of any individual geographic market, particularly a major market, such as Los Angeles or New York, in which we own and operate sizeable businesses, and this may adversely affect our advertising revenues. Natural and other disasters, acts of terrorism, political uncertainty or hostilities could lead to a reduction in domestic and international advertising expenditures as a result of disrupted programming and services, uninterrupted news coverage and economic uncertainty. In addition, advertising expenditures by companies in certain sectors of the economy, including the financial, pharmaceutical and automotive segments, represent a significant portion of our advertising revenues. Any political, economic, social or technological change resulting in a reduction in these sectors’ advertising expenditures may adversely affect our revenue. Our ability to generate advertising revenue is also dependent on demand for our content, the consumers in our targeted demographics, advertising rates and results observed by advertisers. These factors could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Our success depends on our ability to maintain attractive brands and our reputation, and to offer popular programming and other content
Our ability to maintain attractive brands and our reputation, and to create popular programming and other content, tentpole and other live events and consumer products are key to the success of our business and our ability to generate revenues. The production and distribution of television and other programming, films and other entertainment content
and the licensing of rights to the associated intellectual property is inherently risky because the revenues we derive from various sources primarily depend on our ability to satisfy consumer tastes and expectations in a consistent manner. The popularity of our content is affected by our ability to maintain or develop our strong brand awareness and reputation and to target key audiences, and by the quality and attractiveness of competing entertainment content and the availability of alternative forms of entertainment and leisure time activities, including online, mobile and other offerings. Audience tastes change frequently and it is a challenge to anticipate what offerings will be successful at any point in time. We invest substantial capital in creating and promoting our content, including in the production of original content on our networks, in our films, in our television production business and in our publications, before learning the extent to which it will garner critical success and popularity with consumers.
In our Cable Networks and TV Entertainment businesses, the popularity of our brands and programming has a significant impact on the revenues we are able to generate from advertising, affiliate fees, content licensing, consumer products and other licensing activities, and our ability to expand our presence internationally depends, in part, on our ability to successfully predict and adapt to changing consumer tastes and preferences outside the U.S. In addition, the success of our Publishing business is similarly dependent on audience acceptance of its publications. In our Filmed Entertainment business, the theatrical performance of a film affects not only the theatrical revenues we receive but also revenues from other distribution outlets, such as TVOD and SVOD, television, home entertainment and licensed consumer products. Additionally, a shortfall, now or in the future, in the expected popularity of our programming that we expect to distribute or the sports events for which we have acquired rights, could lead to decreased profitability or losses for a significant period of time. Significant negative claims or publicity regarding the Company or its operations, products, management, employees, practices, business partners and culture may damage our brands or reputation, even if such claims are untrue. A lack of popularity of our offerings or damage to our reputation could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations in a particular period or over a longer term.
Increased costs for programming, films and other rights, and judgments we make on the potential performance of our content, may adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations
In our TV Entertainment and Cable Networks segments, we produce a significant amount of original programming and other content and we invest significant resources in our brands, in part with the aim of developing higher quality and quantity of original content, and we also derive a portion of our revenue from the exploitation of our extensive library of television programming. In our Filmed Entertainment segment, we invest significant amounts in the production, marketing and distribution of films and television series. We also acquire programming, films and television series, as well as a variety of digital content and other ancillary rights such as consumer and home entertainment product offerings, and we pay license fees, royalties and/or contingent compensation in connection with these acquired rights. For example, some of CBS Television Network’s most widely viewed broadcasts, including golf’s Masters Tournament, NFL games and series such as Young Sheldon, are made available based upon programming rights of varying duration that we have negotiated with third parties. We also license various music rights from the major record companies, music publishers and performing rights organizations.
Our investments in original and acquired programming are significant and involve complex negotiations with numerous third parties, and rapid changes in consumer behavior have increased the risk associated with the success of all kinds of programming. Competition for popular content is intense, and we may have to increase the price we are willing to pay for talent and intellectual property rights, which may result in significantly increased costs. Further, increased competition in the market for development and production of original programming, such as from Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Hulu, Netflix and YouTube, and streaming services by large entertainment companies, increases our content costs as they introduce different ways of compensating talent and approaching production. We may be outbid by our competitors for the rights to new, popular programming or in connection with the renewals of popular programming that we currently license. Finally, certain of our counterparties and vendors may encounter financial and operational pressures, which could result in increased costs to us or delays in production. As such, there can be no assurance that we will recoup our investments in programming, films and other content when the content is broadcast or distributed. If our content offerings cease to be widely accepted by audiences or are not continuously replenished with popular content, our revenues could be adversely affected.
The accounting for the expenses we incur in connection with our programming and films requires that we make judgments about their potential success and useful life. We initially estimate the ultimate revenues of a television program or film and then update our estimate of ultimate revenues based on expected future and actual results, including following a television program’s initial broadcast or a film’s initial theatrical release. If our estimates prove to be incorrect or are reduced, it may result in decreased profitability as a result of the accelerated recognition of the expense and/or write-down of the value of the asset. Similarly, if we determine it is no longer advantageous for us to air a program on our broadcast or cable networks, we would accelerate our amortization of the program costs.
These factors could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
The loss of key talent could adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations
Our business depends upon the continued efforts, abilities and expertise of not only our corporate and divisional executive teams, but also the various creative talent and entertainment personalities with whom we work. For example, we employ or contract with several entertainment personalities with loyal audiences and we produce films with highly regarded directors, producers, writers, actors and other talent. These individuals are important to achieving the success of our programs, films and other content. There can be no assurance that these individuals will remain with us or will retain their current appeal, or that the costs associated with retaining them or new talent will be reasonable. If we fail to retain these individuals on current terms or if our entertainment personalities lose their current appeal or we fail to attract new talent, our business, financial condition or results of operations could be adversely affected.
Our businesses operate in industries that are highly competitive and swiftly consolidating
We depend on the popularity of our content and other offerings, our appeal to advertisers and widespread distribution of our content. We compete with other media companies to attract creative talent and produce high quality content, and for distribution on a variety of third-party platforms to draw large audiences. Competition for talent, content, audiences, service providers, production infrastructure, advertising and distribution is intense and comes from broadcast television stations and networks, cable television systems and networks (including our own), streaming service distributors, the Internet and social media platforms, film studios and independent film producers and distributors, consumer products companies and other entertainment outlets and platforms, as well as from search engines, program guides and “second screen” applications and non-traditional programming services, such as streaming offerings. Additionally, other television stations or cable networks may change their formats or programming, a new station or new network may adopt a format to compete directly with our stations or networks, or stations or networks might engage in aggressive promotional campaigns. Further, competition from additional entrants into the market for development and production of original programming and streaming services, such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Hulu, Netflix and YouTube, and major entertainment companies, continues to increase. In book publishing, competition among electronic and print book retailers could decrease the prices for new releases and the outlets available for book sales. Moreover, the growing use of self-publishing technologies by authors increases competition and could result in decreased use of traditional publishing services.
Our ability to obtain widespread distribution on favorable terms, which contributes to our ability to attract audiences and, in turn, advertisers, is adversely affected by the consolidation of advertising agencies, programmers, content providers, distributors (including telecom companies) and television service providers. This consolidation reduces the number of distributors with whom we negotiate and increases the negotiating leverage and market power of the combined companies. In addition, consolidation in the film business may adversely affect the distribution of our films on various platforms. Consolidation among book retailers and the growth of online sales and electronic books sales have resulted in increased competition for limited physical shelf space for our publications and for the attention of consumers online.
In addition, our competitors generally include market participants with interests in multiple media businesses that are often vertically integrated, whereas our Cable Networks business generally relies on distribution relationships with third parties. As more cable and satellite operators, Internet service providers, telecom companies and other content distributors, aggregators and search providers create or acquire their own content, they may have significant
competitive advantages, which could adversely affect our ability to negotiate favorable terms for distribution or otherwise compete effectively in the delivery marketplace. Our competitors could also have preferential access to important technologies, customer data or other competitive information, as well as significant financial resources.
This competition and consolidation could result in lower ratings and advertising, lower affiliate and other revenues, and increased content costs and promotional and other expenses, negatively affecting our ability to generate revenues and profitability. There can be no assurance that we will be able to compete successfully in the future against existing or new competitors, or that competition or consolidation in the marketplace will not have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Because we derive a significant portion of our revenues from a limited number of distributors, the loss of affiliation and distribution agreements, renewal on less favorable terms or adverse interpretations could have a significant adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations
A significant portion of our revenues, particularly from Cable Networks and TV Entertainment, are attributable to agreements with MVPDs and virtual MVPDs, and other distributors of our programming and program services. These agreements generally have fixed terms that vary by market and distributor, and there can be no assurance that these agreements will be renewed in the future, or renewed on favorable terms, including but not limited to those related to pricing and programming tiers. We may also be unable to modify existing agreements with terms that have over time become less favorable. The loss of existing packaging, positioning, pricing or other marketing opportunities and the loss of carriage on cable and satellite programming tiers or the failure to renew our agreements with any distributor, or renew or modify them on favorable terms, could reduce the distribution of our programming and program services and decrease the potential audience for our programs, thereby negatively affecting our growth prospects and revenues from both affiliate fees and advertising.
The CBS Television Network provides its affiliates with up to approximately 98 hours of regularly scheduled programming per week. In return, the CBS Television Network’s affiliated stations broadcast network-inserted commercials during that programming and pay us station affiliation fees. Loss of station affiliation agreements of the CBS Television Network could adversely affect our results of operations by reducing the reach of our programming and therefore our attractiveness to advertisers, and renewal of these affiliation agreements on less favorable terms may also adversely affect our results of operations.
Consolidation among MVPDs and increased vertical integration of such distributors into the cable or broadcast network business have provided more leverage to these distributors and could adversely affect our ability to maintain or obtain distribution for our network programming or distribution and/or marketing of our subscription program services on favorable or commercially reasonable terms, or at all. Also, consolidation among television station group owners could increase their negotiating leverage. Moreover, competitive pressures faced by MVPDs, particularly in light of the lower retail prices of streaming services, could adversely affect the terms of our renewals with MVPDs. In addition, MVPDs and streaming services continue to develop alternative offerings for consumers, including “skinny bundles.” To the extent these packages do not include our programming and become widely accepted in lieu of traditional program packages, we could experience a decline in affiliate revenues.
Similarly, our revenues are dependent on the compliance of major distributors with the terms of our affiliation or distribution agreements. As these agreements have grown in complexity, the number of disputes regarding the interpretation, and even validity, of the agreements has grown, resulting in greater uncertainty and, from time to time, litigation with respect to our rights and obligations. For example, some of our distribution agreements contain “most favored nation” (“MFN”) clauses, which provide that if we enter into an agreement with a distributor and such agreement includes specified terms that are more favorable than those held by a distributor holding an MFN right, we must offer some of those terms to the distributor holding the MFN right. These clauses are generally complex and may lead to disagreement over their interpretation and application. Disagreements with a distributor on the interpretation or validity of an agreement could adversely impact our revenues from both affiliate fees and advertising, as well as our relationship with that distributor.
These factors could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
The integration of the CBS and Viacom businesses may not be successful or may be more difficult, time consuming or costly than expected. Synergies and other benefits may not be realized within the expected time frames, or at all. Operating costs, customer loss and business disruption may be greater than expected and revenues may be lower than expected following the Merger. Our ongoing investment in new businesses, products, services and technologies present many risks, and we may not realize the financial and strategic goals we had contemplated.
Our ability to realize the anticipated benefits of the Merger will depend, to a large extent, on our ability to integrate the businesses of the combined companies in a manner that facilitates growth opportunities and achieves the projected standalone cost savings and revenue growth trends that have been identified without adversely affecting current revenues and investments in future growth. The failure to meet the challenges involved in combining CBS’ and Viacom’s businesses following the Merger and to realize the anticipated benefits of the Merger, including expected synergies, could cause an interruption of, or a loss of momentum in, the activities of ViacomCBS and could adversely affect the results of operations of ViacomCBS. The overall combination of our businesses may also result in material unanticipated problems, expenses, liabilities, competitive responses, and loss of customer and other business relationships. The difficulties of combining the operations of the companies include, among others:
the diversion of management attention to integration matters;
difficulties in integrating operations and systems, including administrative and information technology infrastructure and financial reporting and internal control systems;
challenges in conforming standards, controls, procedures and accounting and other policies, business cultures and compensation structures between the two companies;
difficulties in integrating employees and attracting and retaining key personnel, including talent;
challenges in retaining existing, and obtaining new customers, viewers, suppliers, distributors, licensors, employees and others, including material content providers, studios, producers, directors, actors, authors and other talent, and advertisers;
difficulties in achieving anticipated cost savings, synergies, business opportunities, financing plans and growth prospects from the combination;
difficulties in managing the expanded operations of a significantly larger and more complex company;
challenges in continuing to develop valuable and widely accepted content and technologies;
contingent liabilities that are larger than expected; and
potential unknown liabilities, adverse consequences and unforeseen increased expenses associated with the Merger.
In addition, even if our operations are integrated successfully, the full benefits of the Merger may not be realized, including, among others, the synergies, cost savings or sales or growth opportunities that are expected. These benefits may not be achieved within the anticipated time frame or at all. Further, additional unanticipated costs may be incurred in the integration of our businesses. Many of these factors are outside of our control, and any one of them could result in lower revenues, higher costs and diversion of management time and energy, which could materially impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In the past, we have acquired and invested, and expect to continue to acquire and invest, in new businesses, products, services and technologies as part of our ongoing strategic initiatives. Such acquisitions and strategic initiatives may involve significant risks and uncertainties, including the types described above as well as insufficient revenues from such investments to offset any new liabilities assumed and expenses associated with the new
investments, unidentified issues not discovered in our due diligence that could cause us to fail to realize the anticipated benefits of such investments and incur unanticipated liabilities and a failure to successfully further develop an acquired business or technology. Because new investments are inherently risky, and the anticipated benefits or value of these investments may not materialize, no assurance can be given that such investments and other strategic initiatives will not adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Service disruptions or failures of, or cybersecurity attacks upon, our or our service providers’ networks, information systems and other technologies could result in the disclosure of confidential or valuable business or personal information, disruption of our businesses, damage to our brands and reputation, legal exposure and financial losses
Networks, cloud services, information systems and other technologies, including technology systems used in connection with the production and distribution of our programming, films and other content by us or our third-party providers (“Systems”), are critical to our business activities, and shutdowns or service disruptions of, and cybersecurity attacks on, these Systems pose increasing risks. Such shutdowns, disruptions and attacks may be caused by third-party hacking of computers and Systems; dissemination of computer viruses, worms, malware, ransomware and other destructive or disruptive software; denial of service attacks and other bad acts; human error; and power outages, natural disasters, extreme weather, terrorist attacks or other similar events. Shutdowns, disruptions and attacks could have an adverse impact on us, our business partners, employees, advertisers, viewers and users of our content offerings, including degradation or disruption of service, loss of data and damage to equipment and data. Steps we take to add software and hardware, upgrade our Systems and network infrastructure, and improve the stability and efficiency of our Systems may not be sufficient to avoid shutdowns, disruptions and attacks. Significant events could result in a disruption of our operations and reduction of our revenues, the loss of or damage to the integrity of data used by management to make decisions and operate our businesses, viewer or advertiser dissatisfaction or a loss of viewers or advertisers, and damage to our reputation or brands.
We operate communications and computer hardware Systems located both in our facilities and that of third-party providers. In addition, we use third-party “cloud” computing services in connection with our business operations. We also use content delivery networks to help us stream programming, films and other content in high volume to viewers and users of our online, mobile and app offerings over the internet. Problems faced by us, our hosting providers, our third-party “cloud” computing or other network providers, including technological or business-related disruptions, as well as cybersecurity attacks and regulatory interference, could result in a disruption of our operations and reduction of our revenues, adversely impact the experience of our viewers and users, and could damage our reputation and brands.
We are subject to risks caused by the misappropriation, misuse, falsification or intentional or accidental release or loss of business or personal data or programming content maintained in our or our third-party providers’ Systems, including proprietary and personal information (of third parties, employees and users of our online, mobile and app offerings), business information including intellectual property, or other confidential information. Outside parties may attempt to penetrate our Systems or those of our third-party providers or fraudulently induce employees, business partners or users of our online, mobile and app offerings to disclose sensitive or confidential information in order to gain access to our data or our subscribers’ or users’ data, or our programming. The number and sophistication of attempted and successful information security breaches in the U.S. and elsewhere have increased in recent years, and because of our prominence, we and/or third-party providers we use may be a particularly attractive target for such attacks. Because the techniques used to obtain unauthorized access to, or disable, degrade or sabotage, these Systems change frequently and often are not recognized until launched, we may be unable to anticipate these techniques, implement adequate security measures or remediate any intrusion on a timely or effective basis. Moreover, the development and maintenance of security measures is costly and requires ongoing monitoring and updating as technologies change and efforts to overcome security measures become more sophisticated. Despite our efforts, the possibility of these events occurring cannot be eliminated.
If a material breach of our Systems or those of our third-party providers occurs, the market perception of the effectiveness of our security measures could be harmed, we could lose subscribers, viewers, advertisers and other
business partners, and users of our online, mobile and app offerings; and our reputation, brands and credibility could be damaged; and we could be required to expend significant amounts of money and other resources to repair or replace such Systems or to comply with regulatory requirements. We could also be subject to actions by regulatory authorities and claims asserted in private litigation. The costs relating to any data breach could be material, and we may not have adequate insurance coverage to compensate us for any losses associated with such events.
Each of these factors could have an adverse effect on our reputation, business, financial condition or results of operations.
We are subject to complex, often inconsistent and potentially costly laws, rules, regulations, industry standards and contractual obligations relating to privacy and personal data protection
We are subject to laws, rules and regulations in the U.S. and in other countries relating to privacy and the collection, use and security of personal data. In the EU, for example, the GDPR mandates data protection compliance obligations and authorizes significant fines for noncompliance, requiring significant compliance resources and efforts on our part. Further, a number of other regions where we do business have enacted or are considering new data protection regulations that may impact our business activities. In the U.S., the California Consumer Privacy Act, which went into effect on January 1, 2020, creates a host of new obligations for businesses regarding how they handle the personal information of California residents. We are also subject to laws and regulations intended specifically to protect the interests of children and the privacy of minors online, including COPPA in the U.S. and the GDPR in the EU, and we have been required to limit some functionality on our websites and apps as a result of these regulations. Such regulations also restrict the types of advertising we are able to sell on these sites and apps and impose strict liability on us for certain actions of ViacomCBS, advertisers and other third parties, which could affect advertising demand and pricing. We will continue to expend resources to comply with data protection and privacy standards imposed by law, industry standards or contractual obligations, which may be inconsistent with one another, and despite such efforts we may face regulatory and other legal actions. See “Regulation and Protection of our Intellectual Property—Certain Other Regulations Affecting Our Business—Global Data Protection Laws and Children’s Privacy Laws.”
Each of these factors could have an adverse effect on our reputation, business, financial condition or results of operations.
The failure, destruction and/or breach of satellites and facilities that we depend upon to distribute our programming could adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations
We use satellite systems, fiber and other methods to transmit our programs and program services to broadcast television and cable television operators and other distributors worldwide. The distribution facilities include uplinks, communications satellites and downlinks. Notwithstanding certain back-up and redundant systems, transmissions may be disrupted as a result of power outages, natural disasters, extreme weather, terrorist attacks, cyber attacks, failures or impairments of communications satellites or on-ground uplinks or downlinks used to transmit programming or other similar events. Currently, there are a limited number of communications satellites available for the transmission of programming, and if a disruption occurs, we may not be able to secure alternate distribution facilities in a timely manner. There can be no assurance that such failure or disruption would not have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Theft of our content, including digital copyright theft and other unauthorized uses of our content, reduces revenue received from legitimate distribution of our programming, films, books and other entertainment content and adversely affects our business, financial condition or results of operations
The success of our businesses depends in part on our ability to maintain and monetize our intellectual property rights. We are fundamentally a content company and theft of our content - specifically, the infringement of our films and home entertainment products, television programming, digital content, books and other intellectual property rights - affects us and the value of our content. Intellectual property theft is particularly prevalent in many parts of the world that either lack effective laws and technical protection measures similar to those existing in the U.S. and Europe or
lack effective enforcement of such measures, or both. Such foreign copyright theft often creates a supply of pirated content for major markets as well. The interpretation of copyright, trademark and other intellectual property laws as applied to our content, and our infringement-detection and enforcement efforts, remain in flux, and some methods of enforcement have encountered political opposition. The failure to appropriately enforce and/or the weakening of existing intellectual property laws could make it more difficult for us to adequately protect our intellectual property and thus negatively affect its value.
Content theft is made easier by the wide availability of higher bandwidth and reduced storage costs, as well as tools that undermine encryption and other security features and enable infringers to cloak their identities online. We and our numerous production and distribution partners operate various technology systems in connection with the production and distribution of our programming and films, and intentional or unintentional acts could result in unauthorized access to our content. The continuing proliferation of digital formats and technologies heightens this risk. The unauthorized distribution and consumption of our content through a wide array of platforms and devices remain problematic and an ever-present challenge, as Internet-connected televisions, set-top boxes and mobile devices are ubiquitous and many can support illegal re-transmission platforms, illicit video-on-demand/streaming services and pre-loaded hardware, providing more accessible, versatile and legitimate-looking environments for consuming pirated film and television content. Unauthorized access to our content could result in the premature release of films, television programs or other content as well as a reduction in legitimate audiences, which would likely have significant adverse effects on the value of the affected content and our ability to monetize our content.
Copyright theft has an adverse effect on our business because it reduces the revenue that we are able to receive from the legitimate sale and distribution of our content, undermines lawful distribution channels, reduces the public’s and some affiliate partners’ perceived value of our content and inhibits our ability to recoup or profit from the costs incurred to create such content. While legal protections exist, piracy and technological tools with which to engage in copyright theft continue to escalate, evolve and present challenges for enforcement. We are actively engaged in enforcement and other activities to protect our intellectual property, and it is likely that we will continue to expend substantial resources in connection with these efforts. Efforts to prevent the unauthorized reproduction, distribution and exhibition of our content may affect our profitability and may not be successful in preventing harm to our business and may have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Political and economic conditions in a variety of markets around the world could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations
Our businesses operate and have audiences, customers and partners worldwide, and we are focused on expanding our international operations in key markets, some of which are emerging markets. For that reason, economic conditions in many different markets around the world affect a number of aspects of our businesses, in particular revenues in both domestic and international markets derived from advertising sales, theatrical releases, home entertainment distribution, television licensing and sales of consumer products. Economic conditions in each market can also impact our audience’s discretionary spending and therefore their willingness to access our content, as well as the businesses of our partners who purchase advertising on our networks, causing them to reduce their spending on advertising. We may also be subject to longer payment cycles. In addition, as we have expanded our international operations, our exposure to foreign currency fluctuations against the U.S. dollar (compared to, for example, the Argentinian peso, the British pound and the Euro, among others) has increased. Such fluctuations could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations, and there is no assurance that downward trending currencies will rebound or that stable currencies will remain stable in any period.
Our businesses are also exposed to certain political risks inherent in conducting a global business, including retaliatory actions by governments reacting to changes in the U.S. and other countries, including in connection with trade negotiations; issues related to the presence of corruption in certain markets and enforcement of anti-corruption laws and regulations; increased risk of political instability in some markets as well as conflict and sanctions preventing us from accessing those markets; escalating trade, immigration and nuclear disputes; wars, acts of terrorism or other hostilities; and other political, economic or other uncertainties.
The UK left the EU on January 31, 2020. It is now in a ‘transition period’ scheduled to end on December 31, 2020 that allows the negotiation of a future UK-EU trade relationship while remaining part of the EU Single Market. Depending on the ultimate terms of a trade deal, the UK could lose access to the single EU market and to the global trade deals negotiated by the EU on behalf of its members. It is possible that the UK could revert to World Trade Organization terms if no deal is reached. The effects of Brexit and the on-going trade negotiations may continue to adversely affect business activity, political stability and economic and market conditions in the UK, the Eurozone, the EU and elsewhere and contribute to instability in global financial and foreign exchange markets, including volatility in the value of the Euro and the British Pound. A new trade deal, or no deal at all, could lead to additional political, legal and economic instability and uncertainty in the EU, including changes in the regulatory environment, which could impact our ability to use UK law under “country of origin” rules for programming in the EU, potential trade barriers between the UK and the EU and between the UK and other countries, and potential content production quota regulations. Given that a portion of our business is conducted in the EU, including the UK, any of these effects of Brexit and a trade deal, and others we cannot anticipate, could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
These political and economic risks could create instability in any of the markets where our businesses derive revenues, which could result in a reduction of revenue or loss of investment that adversely affects our businesses, financial condition or results of operations.
Changes in U.S. or foreign laws or regulations may have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations
Our program services, filmed entertainment and online, mobile and app properties are subject to a variety of laws and regulations, both in the U.S. and/or in the foreign jurisdictions in which we or our partners operate, including relating to intellectual property, content regulation, user privacy, data protection, anti-corruption, repatriation of profits, tax regimes, quotas, tariffs or other trade barriers, currency exchange controls, operating license and permit requirements, restrictions on foreign ownership or investment, export and market access restrictions, and exceptions and limitations on copyright and censorship, among others.
The television broadcasting and distribution industries in the U.S. are highly regulated by U.S. federal laws and regulations issued and administered by various federal agencies, including the FCC. For example, we are required to obtain licenses from the FCC to operate our television stations. It cannot be assured that the FCC will approve our future renewal applications or that the renewals will be for full terms or will not include conditions or qualifications. The non-renewal, or renewal with substantial conditions or modifications, of one or more of our licenses could have a material adverse effect on our revenues. We must also comply with extensive FCC regulations and policies in the ownership and operation of our television stations and our television networks, which prohibit common ownership of two or more of the top four television networks and limit the number of television stations that a licensee can own in a market and the number of television stations that can be owned in the U.S., which could restrict our ability to consummate future transactions and in certain circumstances could require us to divest some television stations. Our programming directed towards children is subject to a number of additional regulations. For example, privacy regulations make it difficult to measure online viewership by children. The threat of regulatory action or increased scrutiny that deters certain advertisers from advertising or reaching their intended audiences could adversely affect advertising revenue.
The U.S. Congress and the FCC currently have under consideration, and may in the future adopt, new laws, regulations, and policies regarding a wide variety of matters that could, directly or indirectly, affect the operation and ownership of our television properties. For example, from time to time, proposals have been advanced in the U.S. Congress and at the FCC to require television stations to provide advertising time to political candidates for free or at a reduced charge. Any restrictions on advertising may adversely affect our advertising revenues. Changes to the media ownership and other FCC rules may affect the competitive landscape in ways that could increase the competition faced by us. Proposals have also been advanced from time to time before the U.S. Congress and the FCC to extend the program access rules (currently applicable only to those cable program services which also own or are owned in whole or in part by cable distribution or telephone company systems) to all cable program services. Our ability to
obtain the most favorable terms available for our content could be adversely affected should such an extension be enacted into law. It is difficult to predict the likelihood or impact of any proposed actions by the U.S. Congress or the FCC on our television properties.
Laws in some non-U.S. jurisdictions differ in significant respects from those in the U.S., and the enforcement of such laws can be inconsistent and unpredictable, which could impact our ability to expand our operations and undertake activities that we believe are beneficial to our business. In addition, changes in or new interpretations of international laws and regulations governing the broadcast and distribution of content, competition and the Internet, including those affecting data privacy, as well as the new EU law requiring 30% local content on SVOD services and proposed amendments to the law governing territorial exclusivity of the distribution of content in Europe, may have an adverse impact on our international businesses and digital properties.
Our businesses are also subject to laws and regulations in the U.S. and internationally governing the collection, use, sharing, protection and retention of personal data, which has implications for how such data is managed. For example, GDPR expands the regulation of personal data processing throughout the EU and significantly increases penalties for non-compliance. Complying with these laws and regulations could be costly, require us to change our business practices, or limit or restrict aspects of our business in a manner adverse to our business operations. Many of these laws and regulations continue to evolve, and substantial uncertainty surrounds their scope and application. Our failure to comply could result in exposure to enforcement by U.S. or foreign governments, as well as significant negative publicity and reputational damage.
Our businesses could be adversely affected by new laws and regulations, changes in existing laws, changes in interpretations of existing laws by courts and regulators and the threat that additional laws or regulations may be forthcoming, as well as our ability to enforce our legal rights. We could be required to change or limit certain of our business practices, which could impact our ability to generate revenues. We could also incur substantial costs to comply with new and existing laws and regulations, or substantial fines and penalties or other liabilities if we fail to comply with such laws and regulations.
Vigorous enforcement or modification of FCC indecency and other program content rules against the broadcast and cable industries could have an adverse effect on our businesses and results of operations
The FCC’s rules prohibit the broadcast of obscene material at any time and indecent or profane material on television stations between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Broadcasters risk violating the prohibition against broadcasting indecent material because of the vagueness of the FCC’s indecency/profanity definition, coupled with the spontaneity of live programming. The FCC enforces its indecency rules against the broadcasting industry. The FCC has found on a number of occasions that the content of television broadcasts has contained indecent material. In such instances, the FCC issued fines or advisory warnings to the offending licensees. Moreover, the FCC has in some instances imposed separate fines for each allegedly indecent “utterance,” in contrast with its previous policy, which generally considered all indecent words or phrases within a given program as constituting a single violation. Broadcasting indecent material could result in fines per station of a maximum of approximately $415,000 per utterance and/or the loss of a station’s FCC license. If the FCC denied a license renewal or revoked the license for one of our television stations, we would lose our authority to operate the station. The determination of whether content is indecent is inherently subjective and, as such, it can be difficult to predict whether particular content could violate indecency standards. The difficulty in predicting whether individual programs, words or phrases may violate the FCC’s indecency rules adds significant uncertainty to our ability to comply with the rules. Violation of indecency rules could lead to sanctions which may adversely affect our businesses and results of operations. Some policymakers support the extension of the indecency rules that are applicable to over-the-air broadcasters to cover cable and satellite programming and/or attempts to increase enforcement of or otherwise expand existing laws and rules. If such an extension, attempt to increase enforcement or other expansion took place and were found to be constitutional, some of our cable content could be subject to additional regulation and might not be able to attract the same subscription and viewership levels.
We could be subject to material liabilities as a result of adoption of or changes in tax laws, regulations and administrative practices, interpretations and policies
We are subject to taxation in the U.S. and numerous international jurisdictions. Our tax rates are impacted by the tax laws, regulations and administrative practices, interpretations and policies in the federal, state and local and international territories where our businesses operate, and these rates may be subject to significant change. Our tax returns are routinely audited and litigation, adverse outcomes, or settlements may occur because tax authorities may disagree with certain positions we have taken, including our methodologies for intercompany arrangements. Additionally, shifting economic and political conditions may result in significant changes to tax policies, laws or tax rates in various jurisdictions. Such changes, litigation, adverse outcomes, or audit settlements may result in the recognition of additional charges to our income tax provision in any given period and may adversely affect our effective income tax rate or cash payments and may therefore adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Volatility and weakness in capital markets may adversely affect our credit availability and related financing costs
Bank and capital markets can experience periods of volatility and disruption. If the disruption in these markets is prolonged, our ability to refinance, and the related cost of refinancing, some or all of our debt could be adversely affected. Although we can currently access the bank and capital markets, there is no assurance that such markets will continue to be a reliable source of financing for us. In addition, our access to and cost of borrowing can be affected by our short- and long-term debt ratings assigned by ratings agencies. In addition, the interest rates included in certain agreements that govern certain of our debt securities and/or credit facilities may be based on the London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”). In the future, use of LIBOR may be discontinued and we cannot be certain how long LIBOR will continue to be a viable benchmark interest rate. Use of alternative interest rates could result in increased borrowing costs or volatility in the markets and interest rates. These factors, including the tightening of credit markets, or a decrease in our debt ratings, could adversely affect our ability to obtain cost-effective financing.
We could be adversely affected by strikes and other union activity
We and our business partners engage the services of writers, directors, actors, musicians and other talent, production crew members, trade employees, players in sports leagues and others who are subject to industry-wide or specially-negotiated collective bargaining agreements, and occasionally individual agreements. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) is a multi-employer trade association that, along with and on behalf of hundreds of member companies including Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios, negotiates the industry-wide collective bargaining agreements with these parties, and we may lack practical control over the negotiations and terms of the agreements. The Writers Guild of America contract expires on May 1, 2020, and the Directors Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists contracts expire on June 30, 2020. The AMPTP expects to negotiate successor deals with these guilds and unions in the coming months. Any labor disputes that arise may disrupt our operations and cause delays in the production of our programming, and we may not be able to negotiate favorable terms for a renewal, which could increase our costs. Depending on its duration, any lockout, labor dispute, strike or work stoppage could have an adverse effect on our revenues, cash flows and/or operating income and/or their timing.
Our revenues, expenses and operating results may vary based on the timing, mix, number and availability of our films and other programming and on seasonal factors
Our revenues, expenses and operating results fluctuate due to the timing, mix, number and/or availability of our theatrical films, home entertainment releases and programs for licensing. For example, our operating results may increase or decrease during a particular period relative to the corresponding period in the prior year due to differences in the number and/or mix of films released, the commencement of a license period or the timing of delivery of programming to licensees for exhibition. Our operating results also fluctuate due to the timing of the recognition of marketing expenses, which are generally incurred before and throughout the theatrical release of a film, with the recognition of related revenues through the film’s theatrical exhibition and subsequent distribution windows.
Our business also has experienced and is expected to continue to experience seasonality due to, among other things, seasonal advertising patterns and seasonal influences on audiences’ viewing, reading and attendance habits. Typically, our revenue from advertising is highest in the first and fourth quarters. In the Cable Networks segment, advertising is typically highest in the fourth quarter due to the holiday season, among other factors. In the TV Entertainment segment, advertising revenues benefit principally in the first quarter of the years in which we telecast the Super Bowl and NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament National Semifinals and Championship and in the fourth quarter due to the holiday season and, in even-numbered years, advertising placed by candidates for political offices. Revenues from the Filmed Entertainment segment’s theatrical film releases tend to be cyclical with increases during the summer. The Publishing segment is subject to increased periods of demand during the summer and year-end holiday season. The effects of these variances make it difficult to estimate future operating results based on the previous results of any specific quarter.
We could suffer losses due to asset impairment charges for goodwill, intangible assets, FCC licenses and programming
We test goodwill and indefinite-lived intangible assets, including FCC licenses, for impairment on an annual basis and between annual tests if events or circumstances require an interim impairment assessment. Certain future events and circumstances, including deterioration of market conditions, higher cost of capital, a decline in advertising markets, a decrease in audience acceptance of our programming or films, a shift by advertisers to competing advertising platforms and/or changes in consumer behavior could result in a downward revision in the estimated fair value of a reporting unit or intangible assets, including FCC licenses, which could result in a non-cash impairment charge. Any such impairment charge for goodwill, intangible assets and/or programming could have a material adverse effect on our reported net earnings.
Our liabilities related to discontinued operations and former businesses could adversely impact our financial conditions
We have both recognized and potential liabilities and costs related to discontinued operations and former businesses, certain of which are unrelated to the media business, including leases, guarantees, environmental liabilities, liabilities related to the pensions and medical expenses of retirees, asbestos liabilities, contractual disputes and other pending and threatened litigation. We cannot be assured that our accruals for these matters are sufficient to cover these liabilities in their entirety or any one of these liabilities when it becomes due or at what point any of these liabilities may come due. Therefore, there can be no assurances that these liabilities will not have a material adverse effect on our financial position, operating performance or cash flow.
Risks Relating to NAI’s Voting Control of ViacomCBS and Pledged Shares
NAI, through its voting control of ViacomCBS, will be in a position to control actions that require stockholder approval
NAI, through its direct and indirect ownership of our Class A Common Stock, has voting control of ViacomCBS. At December 31, 2019, NAI directly or indirectly owned approximately 79.4% of the shares of our Class A Common Stock outstanding, and approximately 10.2% of the shares of our Class A Common Stock and our Class B Common Stock outstanding on a combined basis. Sumner M. Redstone is the beneficial owner of the controlling interest in NAI and, accordingly, beneficially owns all such shares. Mr. Redstone is the controlling stockholder, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer of NAI. Shari E. Redstone, the President and a director of NAI, serves as non-executive Chair of the ViacomCBS Board of Directors (the “ViacomCBS Board”). NAI is controlled by Mr. Redstone through the Sumner M. Redstone National Amusements Trust (the “SMR Trust”), which owns 80% of the voting interest of NAI, and such voting interest of NAI held by the SMR Trust is voted solely by Mr. Redstone until his incapacity or death. The SMR Trust provides that in the event of Mr. Redstone’s death or incapacity, voting control of the NAI voting interest held by the SMR Trust will pass to seven trustees, who will include Ms. Redstone. No member of our management is a trustee of the SMR Trust.
Subject to the terms of the Governance Agreement dated as of August 13, 2019, which is incorporated by reference as an exhibit in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, NAI is in a position to control the outcome of corporate actions that require, or may be accomplished by, stockholder approval, including amending ViacomCBS’ bylaws, the election or removal of directors and transactions involving a change of control. For example, the ViacomCBS bylaws provide that:
the affirmative vote of not less than a majority of the aggregate voting power of all outstanding shares of our capital stock then entitled to vote generally in an election of directors, voting together as a single class, is required for our stockholders to amend, alter, change, repeal or adopt any of our bylaws;
any or all of our directors may be removed from office at any time prior to the expiration of his or her term of office, with or without cause, only by the affirmative vote of the holders of record of outstanding shares representing at least a majority of all the aggregate voting power of outstanding shares of our Common Stock then entitled to vote generally in the election of directors, voting together as a single class at a special meeting of our stockholders called expressly for that purpose; provided that during the two-year period following the closing date of the ViacomCBS Merger, the removal of our Chief Executive Officer requires the approval of the ViacomCBS Board by the “Requisite Approval” (as defined in the ViacomCBS certificate of incorporation incorporated by reference as an exhibit in this Annual Report on Form 10-K); provided further, that during the two-year period following the closing date, NAI and NAI Entertainment Holdings LLC are not permitted to remove any other persons who were members of the ViacomCBS Board at the effective time of the Merger in accordance with the Merger Agreement or who otherwise become members the ViacomCBS Board (other than any of the NAI Affiliated Directors (as defined in the bylaws)) without the Requisite Approval; and
in accordance with the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware, our stockholders may act by written consent without a meeting if such stockholders hold the number of shares representing not less than the minimum number of votes that would be necessary to authorize or take such actions at a meeting at which all shares entitled to vote thereon were present and voted.
Accordingly, ViacomCBS stockholders who may have different interests are unable to affect the outcome of any such corporate actions for so long as NAI retains voting control. For more information, see the Governance Agreement incorporated by reference as an exhibit in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Sales of NAI’s shares of ViacomCBS Common Stock, some of which are pledged to lenders, could adversely affect the stock price
At December 31, 2019, NAI directly or indirectly owned approximately 79.4% of the shares of our Class A Common Stock outstanding, and approximately 10.2% of the shares of our Class A Common Stock and our Class B Common Stock outstanding on a combined basis. Based on information received from NAI, NAI has pledged to its lenders a portion of shares of our Class A Common Stock and our Class B Common Stock owned directly or indirectly by NAI.
At December 31, 2019, the aggregate number of shares of our Common Stock pledged by NAI to its lenders represented approximately 4.1% of the total outstanding shares of our Class A Common Stock and our Class B Common Stock, on a combined basis. At December 31, 2019, the amount of our Class A Common Stock that NAI directly or indirectly owned and that was not pledged by NAI to its lenders represented approximately 64.0% of the total outstanding shares of our Class A Common Stock.
If there is a default on NAI’s debt obligations and the lenders foreclose on the pledged shares, the lenders may not effect a transfer, sale or disposition of any pledged shares of our Class A Common Stock, unless NAI and its affiliates beneficially own 50% or less of our Class A Common Stock then outstanding or such shares have first been converted into our Class B Common Stock. A sale of the pledged shares could adversely affect our Common Stock share price. In addition, there can be no assurance that at some future time NAI will not sell or pledge additional shares of our Common Stock, which could adversely affect our Common Stock share price.
Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments.
Item 2. Properties.
Our principal physical properties are described below. In addition, we own and lease office, studio, production and warehouse space and broadcast, antenna and satellite transmission facilities throughout the U.S. and around the world for our businesses. We consider our properties adequate for our present needs.
Our world headquarters is located at 1515 Broadway, New York, New York, where we lease approximately 1.4 million square feet for executive, administrative and business offices for the Company and certain of our operating divisions. The lease runs through 2031, with two renewal options based on market rates at the time of renewal for ten years each.
We also own a building at 51 West 52nd Street, New York, New York containing approximately 892,000 square feet of space. Of the 855,000 square feet of office space in the building, we occupy approximately 270,000 square feet and lease the balance to third parties. We have retained a real estate brokerage firm to explore a possible sale of this property.