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Mario Gabelli: Here's what Viacom really needs, besides boardroom peace

Fight for Viacom: Gabelli

Putting the board of directors drama aside, Viacom must find a way to generate the kind of must-see content that viewers flock to on other media properties, said major Viacom shareholder and famed value investor Mario Gabelli.

In an interview Friday on CNBC's "Squawk Box, " the chairman and CEO of Gamco Investors addressed some of the fundamental pros and cons at the media company.

"We've solved the problem short term with Dish. That was a major hurdle, " Gablelli said — citing the April agreement between Viacom and Dish Network on a new carriage agreement.

"The next one is get some financing [and] get some content back into Paramount ... in TV series and digital distribution," Gabelli said. Viacom owns content creator and distributor Paramount as well as television networks including MTV, Nickelodeon, BET and Spike.

The key question at Viacom, according to Gabelli, is "how do you create series for over-the-top" — a term referring to services that deliver content directly to consumers who don't have cable TV or satellite subscriptions.

"They've got good resources. The question is growth. The question is valuation. And that's what the market will and should focus on," said Gabelli.

"You can create [product] at Viacom. Look at 'The Walking Dead,' 'Mad Men,' 'Breaking Bad,' [AMC Networks CEO] Josh Sapan is the creator of that, " he said — contending Viacom needs that kind of vision.

Refusing to answer questions about whether Viacom Chairman and CEO Philippe Dauman can provide that kind of leadership, Gabelli said the decision remains with 93-year-old Sumner Redstone and his daughter Shari Redstone, who control the media giant.

In the latest twist in the protracted boardroom brawl at Viacom, directors were bracing for the possibility that they could be replaced as soon as Friday, sources told CNBC.

Viacom directors bracing for possibility of replacement

Board members who spoke to CNBC said controlling Viacom shareholder Sumner Redstone could change the composition of the board, including Dauman.

If this were to happen, the directors said they're prepared to respond with a lawsuit, arguing they were improperly removed.

Such a move would follow changes about a week ago in the trust that oversees Redstone's ownership position in Viacom as well as his ownership position in CBS.

The trust would take over control of the two media giants when the elder Redstone dies, or if he were deemed incompetent.

Dauman says Shari Redstone is unduly influencing her father, who lacks the mental capacity to make these decisions.

Gabelli said if he were granted two wishes he'd first wish to solve the problems in the Mideast, and second to solve the problems at Viacom and National Amusements.

National Amusements is the privately held company that holds Redstone's nearly 80 percent of the voting shares of Viacom and CBS.

Viacom declined to comment.

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— CNBC's David Faber contributed to this report.