Philippe Dauman tried to slam the door today on the growing speculation that Viacom’s looking for a big deal to keep up with rivals in an era of consolidation — or to help turn around the company, which has been struggling with declining ratings. As for the hottest rumor, he says that “we have no intention of buying CBS [which, like Viacom, is controlled by Sumner Redstone] or buying any other big company out there,” he told investors at Deutsche Bank Media, Internet & Telecom Conference. For now, at least, “we’re not going to be a consolidator.”
To underscore his point, Dauman noted that he’s on the board of Redstone’s National Amusements, which technically owns the mogul’s Viacom and CBS holdings. CBS chief Les Moonves “is doing a great job, and I’m sure will continue to build value for shareholders including National Amusements.” But Viacom is determined to grow organically, although he adds that “in the years to come if there are big changes in the landscape and we see that there’s a lot of consolidation and some strategic value to our shareholders in the long-term, we’ll take a look at it.”
While denying deal rumors, Dauman took aim at one last week that said he’s looking to sell part of Paramount to a Chinese company. “Completely untrue. There has not been a conversation and will not be a conversation.”
What’s more, Dauman says that Lionsgate’s recent stock swap with Liberty Media’s John Malone — who controls Starz — shouldn’t hurt the studio’s partnership with Viacom and MGM at EPIX. He says that Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer told him “that they are completely committed to the EPIX business long-term.” That’s good for Viacom because “we believe in EPIX very much. It is quite profitable.” As Viacom and partners prepare to produce original shows for the premium network, which mostly offers movies, “I have no reason to doubt Lionsgate.”
On another matter in the headlines, Dauman says that Viacom’s recent layoffs and restructuring initiatives should save about $250 million a year . The bloodlettting “will be largely done by the end of the month.” Describing 2015 as “a transitional year,” Dauman says he’s “very pleased” with how the changes are taking place.
In addition to the personnel changes, Viacom plans to develop more original shows and abandon ” programming that we acquired years ago that just doesn’t work anymore, particularly when you have off broadcast programming that is ubiquitously on SVOD” subscription streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. “That will help us grow all of these networks.” Viacom will provide more financial info about the changes over the next few weeks.