Wall Street had low expectations for Viacom, whose stock is down about 20% since the beginning of July mostly due to declining ratings at MTV Networks. So bulls looking for a turnaround likely will breathe a sigh of relief this morning when they examine the results for the September quarter. The company reported net income of $732 million, down 9% vs. the period last year, on revenues of $3.99 billion, +9.3%. The top line beat the consensus forecast of $3.90 billion. Earnings at $1.71 a share also topped predictions for $1.68 in the quarter that ends Viacom’s fiscal year.
“Despite ratings challenges and uncertainty in the scatter advertising market at the close of the year, Viacom’s advertising revenues grew in fiscal 2014, as our creative and marketing teams rolled out innovative new offerings,” CEO Philippe Dauman says. The company completed its acquisition of the UK’s Channel 5 which “points the way to further significant long-term growth of our international business.” And Paramount Pictures “delivered the top movie of 2014 and the largest-ever theatrical release in China – Transformers: Age Of Extinction– and the studio successfully launched another long-term franchise with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
The company’s main Media Networks unit saw revenues increase 8.3% to $2.66 billion with operating income up 5% to $1.09 billion. Most of the increase came from affiliate fees, +21% domestically and 22% overseas. If you take out what Viacom calls “certain distribution agreements” in the quarter, domestic affiliate revenue would have been up in the high single digits. But today’s results won’t change investors growing concerns about the ad market: domestic sales fell 5% in the quarter while international – including Channel 5 – was down 2%.
The Paramount Filmed Entertainment operation had an easier story to tell with Transformers and Turtles contrasting with last year when the company had no major releases in the quarter. Revenues increased 12.3% to $1.36 billion. But operating income fell 26.8% to $213 million compared to last year when Viacom recorded a distribution rights sale from Marvel. Home entertainment revenues fell 38%, the company says, in a quarter when it had two fewer releases than it did last year