Viacom’s performance in the first three months of 2016 was mixed, as is often the case with the beleaguered entertainment power.
U.S. ad sales at its cable networks — a key metric for Wall Street — fell 5% due to ratings declines at some of its pay TV networks. But some of the basic financials beat expectations. The company reported $303 million in net earnings, up from a $53 million loss in the same period last year, on revenues of $3.0 billion, down 2.5%. Analysts thought the top line would be around $2.98 billion.
Adjusted earnings at 76 cents a share topped the consensus forecast of 74 cents.
“We are responding to industry consumption shifts with innovative, thoughtful, and long-term strategic solutions and are generating meaningful results in many important areas, including content creation, data-based audience measurement and distribution innovation,” CEO Philippe Dauman says. “There is much more work to be done, but we see the path to growth ahead and are very optimistic about our future.”
The core Media Networks unit saw revenues drop 3% to $2.38 billion (the Street expected $2.43 billion), while operating income fell 11% to $805 million. Viacom says that the decline would have been 2% absent the impact of the strong dollar vs foreign currencies.
In addition to the fall in ad sales, the company says its domestic affiliate fees dropped 2%. It attributes this to a “modest decline in subscribers and a previously disclosed rate adjustment with a major distributor” — AT&T, which was able to reduce its U-verse prices after it bought DirecTV.
International ad sales fell 1%, but would have increased 6% if the dollar had not remained so strong. Global affiliate fees were up 4% which Viacom attributes to “new channel launches, increased subscribers, and rate increases.”
At Filmed Entertainment, led by Paramount, revenues fell 1% to $655 million (beating expectations for $597 million) with an operating loss of $136 million, down from a $1 million profit last year. Home video appears to be the main culprit: Worldwide theatrical revenues were up 6% to $217 million, helped by Daddy’s Home and The Big Short, but worldwide home video fell by $41 million.
Shortly after releasing its earnings report, Viacom disclosed that it extended an ad partnership with Roku. The agreement enables the entertainment company to “utilize aggregated audience insights from Roku to deliver targeted advertising on the Roku platform.”