Viacom CEO Says He’s Stepping Up Growth Efforts, But Stock Still Falls

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman told analysts this morning that his company is “accelerating” its campaign to revive its flagging TV and movie revenues and profits — which will include boosting the film output at Paramount to about 15 releases in the fiscal year that begins in October.

But the upbeat projections seemed to fall on deaf ears on Wall Street, where Viacom shares opened down more than 11% after it reported anemic results for its June quarter. That brings the year-to-date drop in the company’s stock to about 35%.

The decline is “way overdone,” Dauman says. “The value of the underlying assets far outpaces what’s reflected in the marketplace,” he said the day after Wall Street chilled on media stocks — fearing a growth of pay TV cord cutting and network losses from new skinny bundles.

“The mobile video opportunity is in fairly short order a potential hundreds of millions of dollars a year opportunity…The stock, once we reach certain milestones, will reflect our performance. It’s not reflecting it today.”

To that end, he crowed about the “prominent role our content will play in Verizon’s mobile video offering,” to be introduced later this summer.

In TV networks — Viacom’s dominant business — the company recently renewed carriage agreements with Charter and Mediacom. That means “well over 70%, possibly close to 80%” of Viacom’s subscribers are locked in through 2018. That’s noteworthy at a time when some small operators led by Suddenlink and Cable One have said that Viacom’s channels were too expensive — and they’ve been better off financially after dropping them.

Viacom is exploring relationships with digital video distributors. Meanwhile, it hopes to “increase availability and flexibility of on-demand viewing” on traditional cable and satellite platforms.

Dauman talked up Paramount’s upcoming slate that will include sequels to Transformers, Zoolander, World War Z, Jack Reacher,  SpongeBob Square Pants, and Mission: Impossible — as well as Ben Hur and a production featuring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell.

He calls Paramount’s recently announced experiment with AMC Entertainment, potentially enabling the studio to offer movies on home video before the end of theaters’ traditional 90-day exclusivity window, “a forward looking solution that works for us, the theaters and the consumer.”

He’s also “pleased” with the initial performance of the studio’s revived TV production operation. “We’re able to run this business on a low structural overhead” and it will “smooth out the variability” of the film unit’s finances. “As we go more and more into scripted series, the Paramount Television Group is a source of high level talent” for the company’s networks. Also, Epix — Viacom’s joint venture with Lionsgate and MGM — “is going to have high quality television series for the first time next fall.”

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