Viacom Hires Edelman During Tumultuous Time for Media Conglomerate

Company in the News but Not for the Reasons It Would Like

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Viacom's Sumner Redstone recently stepped down as chairman of CBS and Viacom.
Viacom's Sumner Redstone recently stepped down as chairman of CBS and Viacom. Credit: Business Wire
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Shaky ratings, declining stock prices, leadership and shareholder battles: As it makes headlines with unfortunate stories such as these, Viacom has brought on independent PR giant Edelman to assist with corporate communications, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter, adding that company "hires firms from time to time."

The PR agency has met with some of Viacom's brand teams to gather information in hopes of telling a more positive story for the media conglomerate, according to a second person familar with the matter.

Representatives from Viacom and Edelman declined to comment.

Viacom chairman and CEO Philippe Dauman is working to sell a minority stake in Paramount, the storied movie studio acquired for $10 billion in a 1994 battle royale, to help ease pressure from activist investors and shareholders over the company's performance.

Viacom cable networks such as Nickelodeon, MTV and VH1 once led pop culture but have been surpassed in cachet by digital platforms including YouTube, Snapchat and Vine. While the entire TV industry is struggling with changes in viewing habits, Viacom's younger-skewing audiences in particular are quickly adopting non-traditional entertainment venues.

In addition, Viacom is dealing with a lawsuit over the competence of 92-year-old Sumner M. Redstone, who stepped down from his role as executive chairman of CBS and Viacom last month but remains chairman emeritus of both. Mr. Dauman assumed the chairman role at Viacom despite the opposition of Mr. Redstone's daughter, Shari, whom observers expect to eventually fight the board over the fate of the company. She owns 20% of National Amusements Inc., the private company that holds the family's controlling shares in Viacom and CBS.

On Monday, Viacom, which has seen shares drop 43% in the last year, voted to re-elect its board.

At the end of February, Mr. Dauman was ordered by a New York judge to testify about the mental state of Mr. Redstone.

Viacom is forging ahead with its plans to increase revenue and make TV more powerful for advertisers. recently told Ad Age that it wants make data a part of nearly every deal it does during this year's upfronts, and to do so, it plans on bringing to market a suite of five new products designed to make audience buying more accessible to a broader pool of marketers.

Contributing: Jeanine Poggi