CBS board meets, set to discuss Viacom merger – sources

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(Reuters) – CBS Corp’s (CBS.N) board is set to discuss a merger with Viacom Inc (VIAB.O) on Thursday, sources have told Reuters, possibly starting the process of reuniting the two media companies split by mogul Sumner Redstone more than a decade ago.

Such a deal, which is being pushed by Redstone’s daughter Shari, would combine the CBS broadcast network with Viacom’s Nickelodeon and MTV networks and Paramount film studio.

That could help CBS’ streaming service compete with Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) and boost the combined company’s leverage with cable and satellite distributors.

The regularly scheduled board meeting in Los Angeles could result in CBS and Viacom setting up special committees to consider a merger, but also may end up with no firm decision, according to the sources, who asked for anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

A woman exits the Viacom Inc. headquarters in New York April 30, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD PACKAGE – SEARCH “BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD AUG 1” FOR ALL IMAGES

CBS and Viacom representatives declined to comment.

The deal is not a foregone conclusion. Some analysts have warned that CBS could be better off alone and that the companies’ content is too different to easily add much negotiating power.

CBS and Viacom have previously explored recombining at the urging of ailing Redstone, 94, and his daughter Shari Redstone, who control both through privately held National Amusements.

But CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves and the CBS board had concerns about corporate governance and the deal’s financial rationale, and the Redstones called off the effort in December 2016.

CBS shares were up 1.3 percent on Thursday, while Viacom shares were down 1.5 percent.

Reporting by Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli

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