A FEW days ago Viacom’s film studio, Paramount Pictures, released “Ben Hur”, a film that cost $100m to make and which tanked so badly at the American box office (it took just $12m in its first weekend) that a prominent investor in the firm, Mario Gabelli, calls it “Ben Hurts”. And in the latest in a string of disappointments for the media giant’s cable channels, which used to lead their industry, Comedy Central was obliged to cancel a low-rated programme, “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore”.
Yet in another way Viacom has had a good couple of weeks. On August 20th it jettisoned Philippe Dauman, its chief executive, whom many people at the firm and outside blame for leading the business into disarray during his decade in charge. His ousting also marks the end of a soap-opera-like legal battle for control of the company. It has been fought in the name of Sumner Redstone, the ailing 93-year-old mogul who controls Viacom through his family’s private company, National Amusements. People around Mr Redstone, who is neither seen nor heard from these days, have variously claimed either to know his…Continue reading