“You’ll never see us risk $300M on a single movie, or $200M — $100M may be the limit,” Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said today in an appearance at the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecom Conference. That also applies to Paramount’s new animation unit, which will release a SpongeBob SquarePants movie in late 2014. The studio only has about 40 people in the operation, and will outsource the handiwork. The films wil be “under a $100M price point, some of them way under.” With advancements in computer animation, even a low budget film can “still look great on screen.” On other matters, Dauman had no new explanations for the dramatic decline in Nickelodeon’s ratings — which he has said may reflect glitches in Nielsen’s measurement as opposed to kids’ indifference to the programming. “We don’t like it, but we’ll deal iwth it and it will improve,” he says. Meanwhile the cable networks business looks strong: In advertising “the tone is improving” with auto, food, and beverage companies spending more than they had. In addition, investors can “count on” Viacom’s ability to negotiate at least high single digit percentage growth in the fees channels collect from pay TV providers. But Dauman didn’t seem to feel the same urgency about the industry’s new TV Everywhere streaming initiatives that CEO Jeff Bewkes displayed in an earlier presentation today. Dauman says it will take as long as three years to roll out as providers figure out how to manage technical and marketing demands.
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