CBS, Viacom get joint custody of Viacom Plus

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Viacom plus lives.

A massive eight-figure deal with Masterfoods is the first public sign that the cross-platform selling machine has been able to bridge Viacom's two new separate publicly traded companies and is working much as it did before.

When Viacom announced it would split into two companies-CBS Corp. to house the broadcast networks, radio and outdoor assets, and Viacom to control the cable and movie assets-many media watchers wondered where Viacom Plus Exec VP Lisa McCarthy and her group would end up, or if it would even survive the split.

"[Marketers] needed to be assured that we still had the knowledge and access that we had in the past," said Ms. McCarthy, who now reports jointly to CBS CEO Les Moonves and Viacom CEO Tom Freston.

The split was announced last March, right in the middle of a major pre-upfront cross-platform planning period. Mr. Freston and Mr. Moonves spoke to current Plus clients so they'd feel comfortable and confident that they would continue to be served by the division the way they had been in the past, Ms. McCarthy said.

According to buyers who've worked with the post-split CBS-Viacom Plus, the separation of the entities hasn't changed how they do business with them.

Presumably, as long as the division continues to deliver, it will remain in service to both companies. Technically, Viacom Plus is part of Viacom, not CBS, although CBS reimburses Viacom for half the salaries and benefits of Ms. McCarthy and her team, according to SEC filings related to the separation. The filing also says that any disagreements over the direction of Viacom Plus between Viacom and CBS are to be brought before Sumner Redstone, in his role as chairman, and that either CBS or Viacom may opt out of support for Viacom Plus with six months' advance written notice to the other.

The multibrand Masterfoods deal spans 24 assets and includes the M&M brand on CBS Paramount Television's "Entertainment Tonight," Dove chocolate on CBS network's daytime schedule, Pedigree on Nickelodeon and Starburst on MTV's online movie site Flick'd. Last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence, Masterfoods spent $52 million between MTV and CBS TV networks, two major drivers of the new Viacom and CBS Corp. It's expected that this deal would surpass last year's spending but Viacom Plus executives wouldn't comment on the amount Masterfoods spent with the company.

Signs of the times

In the past, cross-platform sales deals have been criticized for being complicated and unwieldy. Today, the media groups that offer them have found there's indeed a place for such teams and the clients that use them take advantage of not only their insider intelligence but also their knowledge of technology and research.

According to executives familiar with the divisions, cross-platform deals tend to make up less than 10% of a major media company's revenues and the clients who do them tend to be larger multi-brand marketers, such as Procter & Gamble Co. At the time of the Viacom split, company insiders pegged the Plus division as contributing 4% of the company's total revenue, or about $600 million.

Ms. McCarthy shies away from the term "cross-platform" in favor of "business development."

"If a brand was just interested in doing something amazing with MTV or `Survivor,' they could accomplish that working with marketing and sales people at a particular division," she said. "But if they say here are seven initiatives and we want you to deeply understand what Snickers is all about or what Cover Girl or Pantene is all about, we can, because we know their business; it's extremely deep. A particular network might have 150 clients. We work with a dozen."

Sweet deal

Masterfoods deal includes:

* M&M brand on CBS Paramount Television’s "Entertainment Tonight,"

* Dove chocolate on CBS network’s daytime schedule

* Starburst on MTV’s online movie site Flick’d.

* Pedigree on Nickelodeon

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