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Viacom is a major entertainment company based in New York City. Their current incarnation, which was spun off in 2006 from what is now CBS, consists of Paramount Pictures, MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and BET, among other properties.
The original Viacom started as CBS's "film sales" division in the mid-1950s, founded to sell some of the network's biggest hits into the syndication market. Back then, CBS had a policy of either owning its shows outright or purchasing the distribution rights, making it so that most of CBS's output from 1950 to 1970 ended being syndicated by CBS as well.
This changed in 1971, when the FCC adopted the "fin-syn" rule. Fin-syn basically stated that television networks could no longer syndicate their own shows. CBS decided to spin its sales division off. Following this lead, Viacom became one of the busiest syndicators in the USA. Armed with huge hits such as I Love Lucy, The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Hawaii Five-O and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Viacom was doing well for itself by the early 1980s, and was looking to expand.
Its first big purchase was MTV Networks  in 1985. Later, Viacom got the distribution rights to The Cosby Show, still a massive hit at the time and a huge potential money maker. The really big purchases came later though, as Viacom successfully devoured Paramount in 1994, Blockbuster Video and Spelling Entertainment Group  in 1999 and finally its own former parent, CBS, in 2000, though its last major purchase was that of BET in 2001.
In 2005, however, it was decided that Viacom should be split in two. The rationale given at the time was that MTV, Nickelodeon and Paramount were "hot" and the rest of CBS was more "cool", as far as growth was concerned. Viacom spun off MTV Networks and Paramount as a "new" Viacom that took the name, and then the old Viacom renamed itself CBS Corporation. However, many people actually believed that the real reason for the split was a result of bad publicity stemming from Janet Jackson's Wardrobe Malfunction during the half-time show for Super Bowl XXXVIII, and a report on Sixty Minutes spinoff show 60 Minutes II questioning President George W. Bush's service in the National Guard, which later turned out to be forged.
Besides being a syndicator, Viacom has also produced several shows by itself:
- The Master
- The Perry Mason reunion movies, starting with "Perry Mason Returns".
- Various other reunion vehcles based on old CBS shows, such as "Return to Mayberry".
- ↑ parent of MTV and Nickelodeon, and then co-owned by Warner Bros. and, of all companies, American Express
- ↑ which, aside from Spelling's own output, held the rights to a huge back catalog; Spelling had purchased Republic Pictures/NTA (It's a Wonderful Life, pre-1973 NBC shows, Paramount's animated shorts, etc.) and Worldvision Enterprises (pre-1973 ABC shows, most of Quinn Martin's library) in 1994 and 1988, respectively