That doesn’t necessarily mean Viacom will skimp on spending where needed, CEO Philippe Dauman told investors at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference. For example, Paramount has a new Transformers film planned for next year that has “a very high budget but very low risk. Same with Mission: Impossible and some of the other franchises.” With new versions of its latest franchise, World War Z, “we will alleviate the risk by bringing in co-financing.” Broadly speaking, though, “we have a history even in tough times of maintaining or growing margins” and that means keeping “a tight lid on expenses, including in programming.” At the movie studio Dauman expects to distribute about 15 films a year including three animated titles in 2015. But he adds that he’s “excited” about next month’s Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa with Johnny Knoxville, which Dauman calls “a fun movie, and a profitable one.” He’s also optimistic about Paramount’s revived television production operation. “They will work with our own networks, with third party networks and there’s a lot of opportunity now to grow it organically.” Asked about the possibility of pay TV cord cutting, Dauman — like other programmers — says he’s not worried. “Overall it’s a healthy system. The value being provided to consumers continues to increase” although he acknowledged that “sure, people would like to pay less.” Nor does he fear that Congress will support Sen. John McCain’s effort to promote a la carte sales. “When you explain what would happen in an a la carte world, it’s not good for consumers….People are fundamentally rational once you talk to them, and I expect that everything that will unfold will happen in the marketplace, not from Washington.”
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