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Viacom says it’s keeping its newest shows away from streaming services

Viacom’s new boss reminds the pay TV guys that he likes doing business with the pay TV guys.

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Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Do you like watching shows from MTV, Comedy Central and other Viacom-owned networks? Then Viacom has a message for you: You’re going to have watch them via a pay TV company.

Actually, that’s not completely accurate: That message is really intended for the people who run pay TV companies — traditional ones, like Comcast*, as well as new digital entrants, like AT&T’s DirecTV Now.

The message comes from new Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, who is trying to overhaul/save the cable TV conglomerate. It’s meant to assure pay TV providers that they can keep doing business with Viacom — without having to worry about Viacom cutting into their business by offering their newest shows to people who don’t have pay TV subscriptions.

Here’s the quote from Bakish’s earnings call today:

“We will also reinforce the pay TV ecosystem by being highly selective in striking agreements with over the top distributors, confining those deals to largely library content. We do want to support the success of virtual MVPDs, as we have with partners like Sling and DIRECTV Now, and embrace their roles as catalyst for innovation.”

And here’s the translation:

You know how we used to let people watch some of our best stuff, like “The Daily Show, either a day after they aired or a few weeks later, on services like Hulu? We’re not going to do that anymore. If they want to watch new Viacom shows they’ll have to pay you or someone else who has the same kind of deal with us that you have.

That doesn’t mean Viacom will stop selling older repeats to people like Amazon. It just means that it’s only going to sell them older repeats, so there’s less threat of cannibalization from their core business: Selling wholesale subscriptions to its bundle of networks to the Comcasts of the world, and selling ads on that stuff as well.

The announcement — which more or less syncs up Viacom with the rest of the big TV guys, including Time Warner and 21st Century Fox and Disney — is part of Bakish’s big plan to fix Viacom.

That’s plan B for Viacom owner Shari Redstone, whose original plan was to merge Viacom with CBS, her other big asset. But CBS CEO Les Moonves didn’t want to deal with Viacom — at least not under the terms Redstone was offering — so it’s Bakish’s problem now.

* Comcast owns NBCUniversal, which is a minority investor in Vox Media, which owns this site.

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