New York CNN Business  — 

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CBS and Viacom, corporate cousins for the past decade, are now one. Shari Redstone’s long-sought merger of the two media companies took effect on Wednesday afternoon, and ViacomCBS will start trading on the NASDAQ on Thursday morning.

So now what? “Unlike its streaming rivals,” the NYT’s Edmund Lee writes, “ViacomCBS will focus on supplying films and television series to other companies.” ViacomCBS “intends to follow a strategy of selling its wares to the highest bidder as demand for original content increases.”

Lee also says that the deal “cements” Redstone’s role “as a trailblazing figure in a male-dominated industry, a woman whose peers now include leaders of media behemoths like Brian Roberts of Comcast and Robert A. Iger of the Walt Disney Company.”

Is ViacomCBS big enough?

“The equity value of the new business is about $25 billion, putting it far behind rivals like Disney, which also has a theme parks business, and NBCUniversal, which is owned by the cable giant Comcast,” Lee notes. “Several key advisers to Ms. Redstone have suggested a bigger deal could come in the future, with ViacomCBS selling to a tech giant, four people familiar with those discussions have said. Even so, Ms. Redstone is not in a rush to sell off a business she has just spent years pulling together…”

Bakish’s promise

“It’s been a long and winding road to get here,” ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish acknowledged to Variety’s Cynthia Littleton in an interview.

“While the merger is now complete, the new company has work to do yet on Wall Street,” Littleton wrote. “CBS and Viacom shares have dropped about 19% and 24%, respectively, since the long-expected deal was confirmed on Aug. 13.”

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Bakish told her. The people who got in at this [low share] price are going to be happy campers…”

Ringing the opening bell

I hear that Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Gayle King, Phil Simms, and SpongeBob SquarePants will be joining Redstone and Bakish to ring theNASDAQ opening bell on Thursday morning. Here is Bakish’s “welcome to ViacomCBS” letter…

Employee townhall on Thursday

Bakish will hold his “Bob Live” townhall at noon, joined by Shari Redstone, for a conversation moderated by Norah O’Donnell. Something that’s sure to come up: These concerns about “synergies,” a/k/a, expected layoffs.

“How many people will get the ax is anyone’s guess at least for the near term, but layoffs are most definitely in the future for the newly merged company if management is to meet the lofty cost-cutting expectations it has set for itself and start boosting the new company’s share price,” Fox’s Charlie Gasparino and Lydia Moynihan reported Wednesday, citing sources…

Read more of Wednesday’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter… And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox…

Lowry’s big unknown Q

Brian Lowry writes: In the past, I wrote about Sumner Redstone’s misguided decision to split up Viacom and CBS, forcing the company to go to great lengths seeking to replicate the synergies and the economies of scale that they would have enjoyed had they stayed together. At the time, though, the obvious plan was to put then-CBS chief Leslie Moonves in charge of the entity. With Moonves gone in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations, it raises the Q ofwhether the current management has what it takes to maximize the combined assets, and whether they’re presently formidable enough, given the shift to streaming and the deep-pocketed tech players (Amazon, Apple, Google, etc.) that have joined the fray…