Go Get ‘Em, Roomie!

Of all of the news that’s been eminating of late from the smouldering remains of the dumpster fire Shari Redstone’s obstinance has turned Paramount Global into, none was as encouraging as what was widely reported yesterday, including THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER’s Erik Hayden:

Barry Diller is taking a look at Paramount Global.

The mogul’s digital media firm IAC is the latest to throw its hat in the ring to make a deal with Shari Redstone’s National Amusements, multiple sources told The New York Times for a report published Monday.

Added FORBES’ Antonio Pequeño IV:

Diller’s media company, InterActiveCorp, has signed nondisclosure agreements with National Amusements, according to the Times, which noted such forms allow for companies to trade confidential information integral to dealmaking.

The nondisclosure agreements were signed at some point following the failure of merger talks between Paramount and Skydance in mid-June, the Times reported, citing two unnamed people with knowledge of the matter.

A successful bid for National Amusements, which owns 77% of Paramount’s class A shares, would provide Diller and his company with control of the entertainment company without having to acquire it outright.

This is wonderful news on so many fronts.  Diller’s track record is exemplary, especially with the company’s IP.  He ran Paramount Pictures for a ten-year run where he oversaw the growth on the television side with the hits that led to the breakthrough his former employer ABC experienced, including the HAPPY DAYS-verse of comedies, not to mention the likes of TAXI and CHEERS, and such theatrical hits as SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, GREASE and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.   He then jumped ship to FOX where he merely launched his long-coveted fourth broadcast network, and for all of the accolade that was rightfully extended to Jamie Kellner upon his recent passing, even Jamie would have allowed that Diller’s vision was the guiding light that allowed all of that success to occur.  And once he had had his fill of working for someone else, he ventured out on his own, pioneering the convergence of digital and transactional overlays to media platforms that has turned his IAC/InterActive Corporation into the multi-billion dollar monolith that has now put him in the position to be a legitimate tire-kicker.

Sure, he’s now in his early 80s, and we know all too well how many people tend to feel about octogenarians pursuing steady work these days.  But Diller has approached every opportunity that’s come before him with an unquestionable thirst for learning as much as humanly possible and empowering the most qualified people, regardless of age or background, to come along for the ride, if indeed one has the stomach to try and ride a bucking bronco.  I was given such an opportunity, and in fact shared a suite with him where I saw first hand exactly what drove him to such success.

I inherited an overly posh office suite at the headquarters of the FOX Television Stations which Diller used the sunnier side of as a satellite headquarters during a period where Rupert Murdoch demanded his direct involvement in upgrading the struggling news and local programming fortunes of KTTV.  Diller and I shared an assistant–or, more accurately, I conceded her services and booked my own appointments whenever Barry was on the East side of town.  And for several months that was quite often.  He’d often be in well before 8 AM and would stay well past 8 PM, conducting meeting after meeting with staffers, consultants and those with out-of-the-box ideas that were otherwise not gaining traction.  And given the hours I kept in those days, I often had the chance for impromptu one-on-ones.  He’d pick my brain about what was working or not in local television, frequently expressing his trademark disgust at how foolish he felt some of our competition was.  “Why would ANYONE think paying so much for RERUNS is a way to BUILD something?!?!?”.  When the ratings for the then-record-priced COSBY SHOW began to trickle in, well below the ridiculously high expectations its price tag demanded, he’d cackle and say “Fools!!!  They deserve every bit of pain that deal is causing them!!!”.  Not that many of our shows were actually beating it at the time, mind you.  But whenever I’d raise that point he’d immediately cut me off and exclaim “Reruns are the past!!  You have to think about the future; that’s the best way to improve your present!!”  Indeed, I saw the seeds of his IAC success being sown when he’d remark about how encouraging he thought some of the concepts I was being pitched for original game shows that involved play-along elements were.  “TV can’t succeed a merely a passive medium”, he’d remind.

And when one looks at the vast wasteland that the majority of Paramount assets have become, with scant few original shows anywhere and a corporate focus on maximizing assets through liquidation that has been a large part of what the three-headed monster of George Cheeks, Chris McCarthy and Brian Robbins have been ordered to offer as their band-aid as they mind Redstone’s store, it’s easy to imagine Diller’s still-fertile mind working overtime with far more imaginative and innovative ideas than any of them might be thinking of.

Besides, as the LOS ANGELES TIMES’ Meg James and Samantha Masunaga remind, if this comes to pass it would be a true Hollywood story of karmic redemption:

Thirty years after getting squeezed out in an epic battle for control of Paramount Pictures, Barry Diller appears to be trying again.  Back in 1994, media mogul Sumner Redstone famously triumphed over Diller in a hard-fought bidding war for control of the Melrose Avenue film studio. Redstone ultimately paid $10 billion for the asset, which many in the industry (including some of Redstone’s own executives) believed was way too steep. Redstone’s media company, then known as Viacom, then bought Blockbuster video chain for its cash flow that the company needed to service the debt on the Paramount purchase.  Diller… withdrew from the bidding with a characteristic shrug. 

“We lost.  They won.  Next!”, was reportedly Diller’s terse recap of what resulted when the Redstones beat him out.

Nothing would be more delicious than for Diller to remind Sharileh of that as she shuffles off the lot.  Fingers crossed.

Until next time…

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