There’s more to Viacom than diminishing ad sales, a falling stock price, eye-popping compensation, and a power struggle with controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone, CEO Philippe Dauman tells Fortune editor Alan Murray in a Q&A out this morning.
“The press loves drama,” Dauman says. “People are missing the business story. This is a great place to work. We have great values. Creativity is at the center of it. We want to do good while we do well. We attract great millennial talent….Why? Because it’s a fun environment to be in.”
It’s been no fun for Dauman. He’s in court arguing that Redstone, 93, is incompetent and being manipulated by his daughter Shari, who’s Viacom’s Vice Chair.
The CEO used the interview to continue to walk back comments he made in a previous case involving Redstone’s health care where he said that the old man had his wits about him when they met in November.
Redstone Team Says There's
“The issue at hand there was about his health care,” Dauman says. “And as I said, he was attentive and engaged. But this context is totally different. We weren’t addressing significant business decisions.”
Viacom also has been no fun for shareholders, who have seen the value of their holdings diminish by a third over the last 12 months and by nearly half over the last two years.
But Dauman is confident that the company has hit bottom. “Anybody smart will look forward to what’s going to happen in the very near term based on everything that we are doing now.” The market will “get to the right place eventually.”
Nor does he believe that Viacom is in what Murray describes as a “creative lull.”
“Remember we have more networks than anyone else,” Dauman says. “We are number one. No one is bigger than us. We have the biggest reach and that’s by Nielsen measurement, which misses a lot of the audience. That’s getting lost in all of this.”
He rejects the view, which his predecessor Tom Freston aired last week, that Viacom failed to take full advantage of digital media — which are especially appealing to the company’s young viewers.
“We have moved to digital,” Dauman says. “We have our content everywhere. We have close relationships with all the social media companies. We have two brands on the Snapchat Discover platform… We were the first company to engage with SVOD companies like Netflix, and Hulu and Amazon. We were the first to put our content on mobile in a significant way. We are in conversations with all the digital players, and we are working to revolutionize measurement of the digital audience.”
Dauman also defended his $54.1 million compensation package in 2015 — which made him the nation’s third highest paid CEO with a 22.1% raise in a year when Viacom’s stock value declined 42.5%.
“What people fail to see there is that the vast majority of my so-called compensation is based on performance, so that it’s recorded according to Black-Scholes value when it is granted, but I don’t realize that unless the stock performs,” Dauman says.
“In fact I have suffered, along with shareholders, because I have a lot of shares myself. In reality, I have lost far more than the $54 million in this period. That’s not inappropriate. I will be rewarded if and when the stock recovers.”
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