That would be huge if Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman’s prediction is accurate — although he declined to elaborate in his presentation today at the UBS Global Media and Commmunications Conference. Viacom reportedly has talked with Sony about teaming up to offer an online service that would include the same kind of channels that now are only available to cable and satellite TV subscribers. Many programmers fear that a national online service could undermine their ability to sell their channels in bundles that require people to pay for services that they don’t watch. Intel met stiff resistance from cable networks when it proposed to introduce what’s known as an over-the-top service, and now wants to sell its technology.
Meanwhile, Dauman told the UBS attendees that Paramount is in “a lot of good discussions with a number of players” preparing to order studio-produced TV shows, but “I will let them make announcements.” He noted that some “will be made for pay outlets and not just our own” and the list could “potentially [include] some broadcast networks as well.” With the growth of global streaming services such as Netflix and AmazonPrime, “there is an opportunity today…to greenlight series with less risk.” Paramount has been “a strong strategic play for us” by exploiting franchises such as Transformers, propelling channels including EPIX and Paramount Channel, and promoting sales of licensed merchandise.
For the most part Dauman told investors what they wanted to hear. Viacom can raise its spending on programming by mid-to-high single digits next year and invest in overseas initiatives — and still “continue to return a lot of capital to shareholders.” Nickelodeon is no longer Viacom’s problem child, with ratings up this year. Dauman is optimistic about efforts to boost animation — including a spin-off of Dora The Explorer for pre-schoolers, Dora And Friends — that he says will help sell licensed products and provide “fuel for us to expand Nickelodeon around the world.” Viacom is developing scripted shows for MTV and plans to do so for Spike. CMT is also “a great opportunity for us” as Viacom seeks to “de-emphasize acquired third-party programming.” Like most media execs, Dauman is enthusiastic about overseas growth opportunities. He plans to introduce the Paramount Channel in several countries in Europe, Latin America, and Asia. Over the next three years it will be “widely distributed around the world.” Viacom also expects to profit from price hikes, as its pay TV fees grow by high single digit to low double digit rates.