Viacom shares nosedived more than 8.5% in early trading this morning despite some news nuggets in its quarterly call with analysts designed to excite investors about CEO Bob Bakish’s effort to revive the company.
Nickelodeon chief Cyma Zarghami says that “there will definitely be another SpongeBob movie.”
And the company says that its deal with Shanghai Film Group and Hua Hua Media to invest $1 billion in Paramount’s movie slate is done with execution “on track.” It could be raised to cover 30% of expenses instead of 25%. The three year deal that begins with the 2017 slate has an option for a fourth year.
“Despite everything that’s been written, we’ve never really had concerns about payment,” CFO Wade Davis says. If the commitment is raised to 30%, then that would represent “upside” for Viacom’s finances this year, he adds. “There may or not be impact in the forward years.”
Still, Bakish fed the growing belief that the pay TV business is weakening by acknowledging that “we’re seeing some softness, too” in pay TV subscriptions — a trend that has also appeared in recent reports from cable and satellite distributors.
He says that should be “a rallying cry for the industry.” He remains optimistic about the possibility — that Viacom, Discovery and AMC Networks are talking to distributors about — to create a no-news, no-sports entertainment package of channels “as a low priced entry point for people not participating in the [pay TV] ecosystem.”
Viacom is trying to mend fences with distributors after a few — led by Suddenlink and Cable One — dropped the company, saying its networks are too expensive. To that end, the company will license some shows, but not a “high volume,” to subscription VOD services such as Netflix.
The CEO says he’s “optimistic” about the upfront ad sales market calling Viacom “well positioned.”
For example, the company is offering some advertisers opportunities to participate in the rebranding of Spike into the Paramount Network. “That’s absolutely part of the dialogue,” he says.
Bakish lauded recently named Paramount chief Jim Gianopoulis as “smart, seasoned with the operating experience” to lead the studio along with his “strong creative relationships.”
The CEO says that MTV — which has had “some bumps in the road” — will have a “renewed focus on unscripted” programming, including eight new shows and a live afternoon programming block.
“This thing is going somewhere,” he says.
Zarghami talked up her network’s efforts to build its businesses. The network now has on-air talent that’s “smart, relatable and diverse,” she says.
Nick will boost its programming to about 700 episodes of new and returning series that “delivers results across platforms and geographies” and involves “only modest increases in production budgets.”
One series, The Loud House, has “SpongeBob-sized ratings in the U.S.,” she says.
At Comedy Central, Bakish says that The Daily Show With Trevor Noah is “starting to hit it.”