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CBS-Viacom deal posed to mark media turning point

Good morning. ?? Breaking overnight: Hong Kong International Airport has cancelled all departing flightsdue to the anti-government protests taking place in its main terminal.

• I’m back from vacation, but haven’t had time to watch the season premiere of HBO’s “Succession” yet. Give me 24 hours.

Join the Market.

Shari Redstone nears V-Day

Moving the Market: Shari Redstone is on the verge of closing her long-awaited CBS-Viacom merger and could announce an agreement as early as today, ushering in a new era of potential growth.

• CBS and Viacom board members were negotiating the price of the deal throughout the weekend and late into Sunday night, Bloomberg’s Nabila Ahmed reports.

• The current price under discussion would likely value Viacom “in the neighborhood of $13 billion,” per Variety’s Cynthia Littleton.

• Redstone is still expected to become chairman of the combined company, while Viacom chief Bob Bakish will serve as CEO.

• Strauss Zelnick, the interim CBS chairman, is unlikely to stay on and has said he’s not interested in an executive role.

The big picture: The CBS-Viacom merger will enable the combined company to better compete with larger players like Disney and WarnerMedia, while also pursuing additional acquisitions.

• Future acquisition targets could include Sony Pictures and Discovery Communications, as my colleague Claire Atkinson reported last month.

Plus: The deal is a major victory for Redstone, who effectively controls both companies through her family’s National Amusements Inc. and has been trying to reunite them for years.

Bob Iger names his price

Talk of Tinseltown: While I was out last week, Bob Igerannounced plans to bundle Disney’s three streaming services ⁠— Disney+, ESPN+ and ad-supported Hulu package ⁠— for $12.99 per month, the same cost as Netflix.

The big picture: Disney’s combined offering of family programming, live sports and premium shows could pose a threat to Netflix, as well as the forthcoming HBO Max service from WarnerMedia.

What’ s next: The bundle will be available when Disney+ launches on November 12.

? Summer Reading, Con’t ?

One late addition to the Summer Reading List: YouTube chief Susan Wojcicki recommends Tara Westover’s “Educated,” Hans Rosling’s “Factfulness” and Pat Barker’s “The Silence of the Girls.”

Mark Zuckerberg adapts

Big in the Bay, big in the Beltway: “The world’s biggest social network has started to modify its behavior” to deal with new threats from regulators, NYT’s Mike Isaac reports.

• “Late last year, Facebook halted acquisition talks with Houseparty, a video-focused social network in Silicon Valley, for fear of inciting antitrust concerns.”

• “Facebook has also begun internal changes that make itself harder to break up… knitting together the messaging systems of Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.”

• It has also “reorganized… so that Facebook is more clearly in charge [and is] rebranding Instagram and WhatsApp to more prominently associate them with Facebook.”

The big picture: “The social network’s changes are now prompting a debate about whether a more knitted-together Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram is just smart business or helps strengthen potential anticompetitive practices.”

What’s next, via WSJ’s Sam Schechner: Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, which leads E.U. privacy enforcement for Facebook, “says it is nearing the end of its investigations” and could start hitting the company with “billions of euros in fines.”

Bonus: While I was out, Isaac reported that Facebook “is pitching a new media initiative to license articles from some of the largest American news publishers.” The project could be worth “millions of dollars” to publishers.

Market Links

Tim Cook starts testing the Apple Card (WSJ)

Zhang Yiming launches a search portal (TC)

Colm Lanigan invests in Authentic Brands (WSJ)

Reed Hastings aligns with Hollywood studios (THR)

Donna Langley pulls ‘The Hunt’ amid shootings (Deadline)

Cc’ Jack Dorsey, re: Epstein

Toxic times dept.: New York Times opinion writer Charlie Warzel writes that the social media response to Jeffrey Epstein’s death on Saturday marks “a new chapter in our post-truth, ‘choose your own reality’ crisis story” — and that Twitter is at the heart of the problem.

• “Within minutes [of Epstein’s death], Trump appointees, Fox Business hosts and Twitter pundits revived a decades-old conspiracy theory, linking the Clinton family to supposedly suspicious deaths. #ClintonBodyCount and #ClintonCrimeFamily trended on Twitter.”

• “Around the same time, an opposite hashtag — #TrumpBodyCount — emerged, focused on President Trump’s decades-old ties to Mr. Epstein.”

• “The dueling hashtags and their attendant toxicity are a grim testament to our deeply poisoned information ecosystem. … It has ushered in a parallel reality unrooted in fact and helped to push conspiratorial thinking into the cultural mainstream.”

The big picture: “At the heart of Saturday’s fiasco is Twitter, which has come to largely program the political conversation and much of the press.”

• “Any wayward tweet by a rando egg can be elevated to an opinion worth paying attention to,” Renée DiResta, a computational propaganda researcher, notes. “Every gamed trend is a meaningful thing we have to analyze and assess in the context of the culture war.”

Next in the Epstein case: Investigators are still trying to determine where Epstein’s money was coming from, and who was actually sending and receiving it?

? What’s next: “California, the birthplace of the American tech industry, is emerging as a great foe,” WSJ’s Sebastian Herrera and Abigail Summerville write.

• It’s “an unusual turn that is setting a precedent for greater tech governance throughout the country.”

See you tomorrow.


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