Viacom Unveils Reorganization Plan Focusing on Flagships Brands

Associated Press

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish will focus on six “flagship brands” — BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., and Paramount — as part of his long-awaited company reorganization, out this morning with its year-end earnings.

The brands “will be the company’s highest priorities and will benefit from significant and increased resource commitments,” Viacom says in its release.

Other brands “will be realigned to reinforce the six flagship brands,” it adds.

The CEO says that there’s “much work to be done, but we are confident we have the plan and people to take our brands to greater heights and build a bright future for our company.”

As part of the plan, Bakish wants to “bring the best of Paramount to the network business, and the best of the network business to Paramount.” That means the studio’s film slate “will now include co-branded releases from each of the flagships” in addition to its own franchises, tentpoles, and other projects.

Paramount and Nickelodeon will kick off the effort with four films led by Amusement Park: It will premiere in theaters next summer with a TV series to come in 2019.

Also, as expected, Spike is to be rebranded as The Paramount Network early next year and will become “Viacom’s premier general entertainment brand.” It will offer the “very best in Viacom original scripted and non-scripted programming, and incorporate even more high-quality original and third party programming.”

The entertainment company will “invest in new content experiences” including a short-form content unit, live “experiences,” and consumer products.

In addition, Bakish will look for “deeper, more client-centric” partnerships with distribution and advertising partners.

“These partnerships may include working with distributors to create new and improved pay TV experiences or broadening advertising offerings to include unmatched cross-portfolio access,” the company says.

Bakish likely will have more to say about his plans later this morning in a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

As for the year-end financials, Viacom says in the last three months of 2016 it generated $396 million in net income, down 11.8% from 2015, on revenues of $3.32 billion, up 5.4%.

The top line beat the $3.18 billion consensus number analysts expected. Adjusted earnings at $1.04 per share appear to have handily beat expectations for 84 cents.

The Media Networks’ adjusted operating income fell about 6.9% to $987 million with revenues up 1% to $2.59 billion — with all the growth coming from overseas.

Domestic ad sales fell 3%, roughly in line with expectations, which reflects soft ratings at networks including Nickelodeon, MTV, and BET somewhat offset by higher rates.

Affiliate revenues were up 2% with higher rates and sales to digital distributors offsetting what Viacom calls “a modest decline in subscribers.”

The Paramount-led Filmed Entertainment unit  reported an adjusted operating loss of $180 million, down 23%, while revenues improved 24% to $758 million. Domestic theatrical sales improved 128% with films including Arrival and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.  Home entertainment sales also improved 12% domestically.

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