Bob Bakish acknowledged Friday that he went face-to-face with Byron Allen backstage at the Grammys on Sunday, but the CEO of Paramount Global refused to be drawn into a discussion on whether the company or any of its parts are up for sale.
Allen has reportedly offered $14 billion for the parent of CBS and Paramount+.
“It is true I was at the Grammys,” Bakish told CNBC’s David Faber. “It is true I saw him. I’m not going to get into what we talked about.”
Faber noted that in addition to Allen’s bid, there are reports that Skydance Media CEO David Ellison and RedBird Capital’s Gerry Cardinale had offered to buy either the entire company or Shari Redstone’s National Amusements, which holds a controlling stake. “Is Paramount conceivably going to be sold?” he asked.
Bakish refused to get drawn in.
“Our focus is on creating shareholder value, either through execution or through alternate means,” the CEO said.
“We’re focused on day-to-day execution, because that is the most predictable creator of value. But, of course, we look more broadly at options, and we look at a lot of things.”
“As to what direction we’re going to go, we’ll see,” he continued. “But what it really tells you is there’s extraordinary value in Paramount Global.”
Paramount shares were basically flat in midday trading, down 2 cents to $12.99. The stock has slipped nearly 10% since the start of the year.
The CEO also dodged a question about whether Paramount was involved in talks with Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery over the development of a new sports app that will air live sports from all three.
“For us, you know, what we focus on is a broad strategy,” Bakish said. “And we’ve looked at sports-only plays, including in digital, both on standalone basis and in partnership, but we continue to believe broad is better.”
“If you look at the sports consumer, on Paramount Plus, believe it or not, 90% of their time, their engagement is with non-sports programming,” he said. “So, sports is a great vehicle for bringing people in and for engaging them. But to make it work for the consumer and for the streaming platform if you will, we believe in that hybrid of sports and entertainment.”
“We like the broader play, and it’s continuing to work for us.”
Bakish acknowledged that ventures like this will be part of the competitive equation going forward. “But it’s just another faction.”
The CEO used the opportunity to gush about one big aspect of his sports lineup — the prospects for Sunday’s Super Bowl on CBS, where ads are costing about $7 million for every 30 seconds.
The CEO said he expects to set a new record coming off the network’s ratings score for the divisional playoff game. “We’ve already set the high watermark for advertising for a Super Bowl, and it’s quite likely we’ll set the high watermark for viewership,” he said.
On the big question on many viewers’ minds — whether Taylor Swift will be able to make it to Las Vegas from Japan in time to cheer on her beau, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce — Bakish was sanguine.
“I’m sure she’ll get here,” he said. “I’ll just say that she is an extraordinary talent, obviously, creates a lot of excitement in the music space and has brought incremental value to the game.”
“I’m sure she hasn’t hurt ratings,” he added. “As to what we’re going to do in terms of coverage, you are just going to have to watch and see, and I’m sure, you like the rest of the world, will be watching.”
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