Viacom chooses IBM for outsourcing deal

Global media giant Viacom Inc. will outsource its help desk, data center and call center operations in the United States to IBM Corp. in an attempt to save money and achieve more uniformity in its IT platform support.

The companies jointly announced Monday the seven-year outsourcing deal, which involves Viacom properties such as CBS Worldwide Inc., MTV Networks, Showtime Networks Inc. and Paramount. Financial terms were not disclosed.

"We used to have similar (IT) infrastructures supported in different ways. Now we'll have similar (IT) infrastructures supported similarly. By outsourcintg all of this support to IBM, we're able to lower the cost of the services," said Russ Pillar, president and chief executive officer of the Viacom Digital Media Group, based in Los Angeles.

IBM will manage and staff Viacom's U.S. help desk, data center and call center operations, a task previously entrusted to Viacom staffers and external service providers, Pillar said. "Now it's all going to be standardized and unified with IBM," he added.

The outsourcing deal affects a broad segment of Viacom users: those who need data center, help desk or call center support, which can be anyone from a secretary or a high-level executive, Pillar said.

Work has already begun on the project and IBM expects the initiative to be in full flight by mid-May, said Neil Parker, head of the Media and Entertainment Practice for IBM Global Services' Strategy and Change Group.

IBM has had a vendor relationship with Viacom in the past, but mostly as a provider of hardware and software; this deal adds a component of services and consulting, Parker said.

The agreement could be a building block toward the codevelopment between Viacom and IBM of digital media initiatives, Pillar said.

"This is a suport deal for IT infrastructure, but as part of the transaction we're also looking to leverage some IBM consulting services and explore ways in which we can grow our business through emerging media platforms," Pillar said.

However, this is still in very much in a "talking about it" stage, Pillar said.

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