It won’t carry the Nickelodeon brand name, and most of the details of the mostly mobile service will have to wait until the channel’s upfront presentation to advertisers in the Spring, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman told analysts this morning. Although it will be introduced there, he declined to say whether it would include advertising.
It will be “geared to young viewers, quite young viewers, and their parents will very much welcome the availability of this premium subscription service,” he says. He also hints that cable and satellite distributors won’t mind: Viacom is “working with our distributors very closely.” But it is “premised on people spending more and more time consuming entertainment, and we’re going to be a big part of their lives wherever they are viewing the content.”
The CEO spent much of the financial briefing reassuring analysts that Viacom is doing fine despite a weak TV ad market, and the company’s declining ratings. Viacom’s US ad sales fell 6% in the last three months of 2014 and the current quarter will be “in a comparable range” although “we are looking for improvement in the back half of the year.”
Part of the problem is that Nielsen still doesn’t count people who watch shows on mobile devices. Dauman says that Viacom is in “specific discussions with several media agencies” to go beyond Nielsen to sell ads that include estimates for the number of people who don’t watch on a TV. That could unlock “significant revenue potential,” he says. For example a test in Norway found that MTV’s target audience grew by “low teen percentages” when digital devices were included.
Dauman also indirectly addressed the growing concern on Wall Street that Dish Network or another large distributor might drop Viacom’s channels – following a few small cable operators led by Cable One. “70% of our subscriber base is covered by deals extending to 2018 and beyond,” he says. What’s more, Viacom recently struck a deal with Dish to offer channels in Mexico. Dauman called Cable One “an unusual situation” because it faces strong competition from satellite TV providers and is focusing on its broadband services. “We’ve had great success in renewing our deals with others who obviously have a strong commitment to all aspects of their business,” the CEO says.
Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone, who usually introduces Dauman, did not speak this time but was said to be listening in from Los Angeles.