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Viacom Split Leaves Trek Future Uncertain

By Michelle
June 19, 2005 - 3:53 AM

Viacom Inc., the entertainment giant that owns all aspects of Star Trek from Paramount Pictures films, UPN television episodes, Paramount DVD releases and Pocket Books novels, is dividing into two separately traded companies, as its board of directors unanimously approved a split proposed by Viacom chairman and CEO Sumner Redstone.

Both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter (via Yahoo) reported on the split, which will create CBS Corp. as a separate entity. The new company will include both the CBS and UPN television networks, the television stations now owned by Viacom, CBS and Paramount TV production and book publisher Simon & Schuster, as well as cable network Showtime, Infinity Broadcasting radio and Paramount Parks. Viacom Inc. will control Paramount Pictures, Paramount Home Entertainment, MTV Networks, BET and Famous Music.

The split is expected to be completed in first-quarter 2006, with Redstone retaining his position as chairman and controlling shareholder of both entities. The new companies Viacom and CBS will be led respectively by current Viacom co-presidents Tom Freston and Leslie Moonves, with each expected to be named CEOs of the divisions they have supervised during their joint tenure as co-chief operating officers of Viacom, Inc.

It is not clear at present which division will end up in control of the Star Trek franchise. If longtime franchise leader Rick Berman's proposal for an eleventh Star Trek feature film is accepted, that would fall under the jurisdiction of Freston's Viacom, which will control the motion picture studio as well as all DVD releases from Paramount Home Entertainment. On the other hand, Paramount Television and Pocket Books - both of which have been involved in producing Star Trek products for many years - will be controlled by the new CBS corporation, so any future television projects may come from them.

It is likely that joint licensing will occur, but the possibility remains that there will be no single individual at the head of the entire Star Trek franchise as Berman has been for the past nearly two decades. Whether movie projects will have to go through CBS now or Paramount TV will have to negotiate with Paramount Pictures has not been announced. Many Star Trek: Enterprise actors have said that they felt that none of the executives at UPN had an interest in the franchise, while Berman's proposed film remains in the early stages of development after upheavals in the senior offices at Paramount Pictures.

"The age of the conglomerate is over," Redstone announced. "The new Viacom will focus on organic expansion through the creation of cutting-edge content, unrivaled brands, specialized and highly desirable demographics and the continuing expansion of delivery platforms. But it remains to be seen what this will mean for its famous film-and-television franchises.

The original articles are at Variety and Yahoo.

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