CEO Philippe Dauman told the Goldman Sachs Communicopia conference that Viacom will see “high-single-digit” growth in ad sales in the current quarter. That put a scare into investors who anticipated double-digit growth. Viacom’s down about 6.5% in mid-day trading, ahead of the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500, which is off about 3%. Dauman tried to cast a flattering light on the situation: “Despite the macroeconomic headlines, the tone of the advertising market remains strong,” he said. Specifically, he says that Viacom has held on to orders made in the upfront market while scatter prices are “in the teens above upfront. … We had a good quarter, and the next quarter looks good.” He also said that he has seen no weakness in many of the most important ad-sales categories for Viacom’s cable networks including auto, toys, and movies. The overseas situation is mixed: “Some (markets) are strong and some are weaker.” Although acknowledging that the market shifts with the economy, as Viacom’s “new shows kick in, we have positive momentum.”

Dauman also says he’s encouraged by potential opportunities to sell licensed merchandise, especially around characters on Nickelodeon. “We’ve aligned our consumer products organization with the creative organization and the marketing organization. We’ve recruited new players — many of them came from Disney — for our international” sales operations. Dauman adds that the strategy meshes with Paramount growing effort to release animated films.

At Paramount, Dauman says his goal is to “de-risk the business” to make it more profitable. The company has reduced its slate from as many as 30 films a year to about 15 — with many devoted to “our franchises and brands” including Transformers, Mission: Impossible and Star Trek. “We’re very disciplined in our greenlighting process,” he says.