Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. announced separately Thursday that each of their Board of Directors has established a special committee of independent directors to evaluate a potential merger. In a statement, Viacom says there can be "no assurance" that this process will result in a transaction.

Why it matters: These talks come as more media companies are merging to better compete with tech giants, like Netflix and Amazon. Rumors of a Viacom-CBS merger intensified after Disney and Fox formally announced a merger deal in December.

The news comes the same day that CBS Corp.'s board was expected to discuss a merger with Viacom, per Axios' Dan Primack.

The holding company for CBS and Viacom, National Amusements, said it supports the process in a statement:

  • “National Amusements supports the processes announced by CBS and Viacom to evaluate a combination of the two companies, which we believe has the potential to drive significant, long-term shareholder value.”

According to Viacom, the committee has retained independent legal counsel and independent financial advisors to evaluate the merger.

Viacom and CBS say that their committees and companies don't plan to comment further until the process is completed.

  • The back story: The two companies have shared a complicated business relationship for years. After merging in 1999, Redstone's father, Sumner Redstone, split the companies in 2005. Both businesses have been managed independently ever since. Redstone made waves when she tried to bring the two companies together in late 2016, only to reverse her decision months later.
  • A bright spot: The Wrap reported a few weeks ago that in a departure from previous talks, CBS CEO Les Moonves is now open to a possible deal.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand confirmed Thursday there are now 13 local cases linked to the four who tested positive for COVID-19, ending 102 days with no community spread. Auckland locked down Wednesday for 72 hours and the rest of NZ is under lesser restrictions.

By the numbers: Over 749,400 people have died of the novel coronavirus globally and over 20.6 million have tested positive, per Johns Hopkins. More than 12.8 million have recovered from the virus.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 20,624,316 — Total deaths: 749,421— Total recoveries: 12,831,800Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,197,147 — Total deaths: 166,027 — Total recoveries: 1,714,960 — Total tests: 63,252,257Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi says Mnuchin told her White House is "not budging" on stimulus position.
  4. Business: U.S. already feeling effects of ending unemployment benefits.
  5. Public health: U.S. records deadliest coronavirus day of the summer — America's two-sided COVID-19 response
  6. Education: New Jersey governor allows schools to reopenGallup: America's confidence in public school system jumps to highest level since 2004.

Bob Woodward's new book details letters between Trump and Kim Jong-un

Bob Woodward during a 2019 event in Los Angele. Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Journalist Bob Woodward has obtained "25 personal letters exchanged" between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for his new book, "Rage," publisher Simon & Schuster revealed on Wednesday.

Details: In the letters, "Kim describes the bond between the two leaders as out of a 'fantasy film,' as the two leaders engage in an extraordinary diplomatic minuet," according to a description of the book posted on Amazon.