Viacom Interested In Sci-Fi Channel

By Christian
June 28, 2003 - 11:46 PM

Five Star Trek series shown each day on one single channel? If it's up to Viacom, that might soon become more than just a pipe dream..

Several media outlets, including the New York Daily News and Reuters, reported yesterday that Viacom wants to be included in the second round of bidding for Vivendi Universal's entertainment assets. Vivendi recently announced it wanted to sell of its American entertainment unit to raise cash, but it said it preferred to sell all of the company as a whole. Viacom had previously said it was not interested in this, but it now seems the company might still try to obtain the cable's television unit, including channels such as the USA Network and the Sci-Fi Channel.

According to a report on Reuters, Viacom has already notified Vivendi it wants to be included in the second round of bidding, joining a group of five other contenders including movie studio MGM and television network NBC. The report said that while Viacom might also be interested in other assets besides the cable networks, it certainly does not want to own Universal Studios, as it already owns a major movie studio in Paramount Pictures.

This might place Viacom at a disadvantage compared to some of its competitors. MGM for example has already offered $11 billion for all of Vivendi's entertainment unit - and has even said it is interested in the company's music unit, which is currently not for sale. However, a report in the New York Daily News suggested that Viacom's bid was a way to signal to other bidders that it is interested in Vivendi's cable unit. Whoever ends up buying Vivendi's entertainment unit will likely need to sell part of the company to raise cash for the deal, and Viacom is making clear it would be only too happy to assist in that.

Obtaining the Sci-Fi Channel would fulfill a long-standing dream for Viacom. In early 1999, Viacom chairman Summer Redstone was quoted in one of TrekToday's very first news items as saying the company might launch its own SF cable channel to compete with the Sci-Fi Channel. At the time, contractual obligations, presumably stemming from the sale of the rerun rights for the Original Series to the Sci-Fi Channel, prevented the company from doing so until the Fall of 2001.

Viacom already has a strong position in niche cable networks serving specific target audiences, like MTV and Nickelodeon, and has tried to set up a general cable channel in the form of TNN. Obtaining the USA Network and the Sci-Fi Channel would strengthen Viacom's position in both fields, and also give them the perfect channel to place cash cow Star Trek.

More can be found in the original reports from Reuters and the New York Daily News.

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