Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman assured Wall Street that there’s no need to fret about the recent spate of reports about soft ratings and ad sales for traditional TV — already the dominant theme at this year’s UBS Global Media and Communications Conference. Advertising demand “is there, price is holding up well,” he says. “It’s not a demand problem that we see.” Although some dollars are moving to digital media, “broadly we are all moving there.”
He’s especially excited about what he calls the “high growth opportunity” to update and target commercials on VOD. Viacom’s youth-oriented programming “way over indexes on video on demand.” The problem is that when shows are seen more than three days after they first air — the norm in the so-called C3 system — “there’s zero monetization.” That could change as Viacom offers new ads in older programs, and provides advertisers with solid viewing data that doesn’t depend on Nielsen’s audience surveys.
Dauman talked up plans to launch brands and short form programming on mobile platforms, which he calls “a major opportunity for us.” More broadly, “we would like to put a lot more of our content (online) and we’d like to see it measured.” He expects that to improve in early 2015 and it “will be very revelatory. …Having better measurement and monetization tools will unleash our ability to put more video out there.”
The CEO also is upbeat about overseas expansion plans. “We have a lot of channel launches ahead…We are absorbing launch costs and yet, even as we absorb those costs, we are going to grow our international [operating income].” The international properties might help Dauman’s effort to “produce our shows for less.” For example, he’s looking at “what we might make in the UK that might work for us in the U.S.”
And Dauman is optimistic about Paramount’s efforts to produce franchise sequels — including Mission:Impossible and Star Trek — that appeal to audiences abroad. “As the film business grows, largely outside of the U.S., these franchises become more important,” he says. The studio is ramping up its Nickelodeon-branded animation. “That will increase the profitability of Paramount on a sustainable basis.” He also cited new efforts to produce TV shows for non-Viacom networks as well as in-house ones. “We’re doing that at a very low overhead,” he assured investors. “Now is a good time to be in the production business.”