Check Out Our New Look

Viacom Wants Executive Pay Lawsuit Tossed

By | Tuesday October 23, 2012 @ 2:11pm PDT

The company has pushed back on a lawsuit that claimsViacom chairman Sumner Redstone, CEO Philippe Dauman, COO Thomas Dooley and other board members were overpaid by $36.6 million. “Defendants respectfully request that the Court dismiss the Complaint with prejudice,” said Viacom’s lawyers in a memorandum (read it here) accompanying the motion filed yesterday in Delaware. “Viacom and the Director Defendants (together, the “Defendants”) bring this motion …on the grounds that no demand was made on the Board to bring suit and the Complaint does not adequately allege demand on the Board would be futile and hence excused.” The company also says that shareholder Robert Freedman has not shown in his suit that the board isn’t independent and didn’t make the payout based on evaluated performance of the compensated executives. Freedman filed his initial complaint August 17. He wants the executives to repay the $36,645.750 they received plus his legal fees.
Read More »

Comments (0)

Viacom’s Philippe Dauman Talks Up Possibility Of A ‘Jack Reacher’ Franchise

By | Wednesday September 19, 2012 @ 12:16pm PDT

Tom CruiseThe movie starring Tom Cruise won’t be out until December 21. But Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman told investors at the Goldman Sachs Annual Communacopia Conference today that he’s “hoping to create new franchise” from the novels created by Jim Grant (who uses the pen name Lee Child). It goes to the heart of a strategy that he says will lead to “a good year” for Paramount. “We reduced the number of releases to about 15 a year and focused on existing franchises, developing new franchises, and developing our brands.” In addition to Reacher, he says that “we’re going to have a Jack Ryan franchise” — referring to the character featured in The Hunt For Red October and Patriot Games. He’s also upbeat about new versions of Transformers, and the planned film built around Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Although the film operation has struggled to recoup revenues lost from the decline of DVD sales, Dauman says Paramount’s productions have “driven some value for the rest of the company” including at EPIX and the overseas Paramount channels. “I’m very pleased with how they’ve performed and where they are.”

Related: Paramount Retitles Its Tom Cruise Film ‘Jack Reacher’

Comments 21

Is Viacom Safe Again For Investors?

By | Monday August 6, 2012 @ 1:45pm PDT

That’s emerged as one of the day’s most talked about questions in media business circles — and it’s an unexpected one after Viacom’s worse-than-expected earnings report Friday morning for the quarter that ended in June. Oddly enough, investors responded by driving Viacom shares +5.6% over the last two trading days, well ahead of the overall market. What’s going on? Analysts who are bullish on the stock say it’s time to jump on a bargain. Viacom’s been beaten up in the year since it began to report plummeting ratings at some of its most important channels including Nickelodeon and MTV. It trades for about 9.6 times its estimated earnings per share for next year — lower than peers including Comcast (15.7 times), Disney (14.3 times), News Corp (13.8 times), CBS (12.3 times), and Time Warner (11.3 times). But CEO Philippe Dauman encouraged analysts on Friday to believe that a turn-around is near. Lazard Capital Markets’ Barton Crockett says he’s “more optimistic about a company whose recent ratings challenges earn it standing as this year’s ’Dog of the Dial’.” Read More »

Comments (0)

Comedy Central Taps Mitch Fried To Lead Foray Into Merchandise Business

By | Monday July 9, 2012 @ 7:52am PDT

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman has told investors that he sees a big opportunity for his company to grow by promoting sales of consumer products tied to its entertainment brands. Here’s how Comedy Central plans to chip in:

NEW YORK, July 9, 2012 — COMEDY CENTRAL, the #1 brand in comedy, has created COMEDY CENTRAL Enterprises, a new business division that will focus on building upon COMEDY CENTRAL’s leadership position in the industry through consumer products, home video, CDs and digital downloads, publishing, and live touring, it was announced today by Michele Ganeless, President, COMEDY CENTRAL. Mitch Fried has been promoted to the newly formed position of Executive Vice President, COMEDY CENTRAL Enterprises and will head up the new business division, reporting to Ganeless. Fried was formerly Senior Vice President, COMEDY CENTRAL Live Entertainment.

Read More »

Comments (2)

Viacom Chief Says Paramount’s Doing “Extraordinarily Well”: Video

By | Thursday June 14, 2012 @ 7:39am PDT

The folks at CNBC’s Squawk Box didn’t even try to challenge Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman’s talking points in his appearance on the show this morning. He acknowledged that the company has “a few ratings issues” — a euphemism for the situation at Nickelodeon where the audience is down 28.5% so far this quarter vs the same period last year and MTV which is -9.4%. He repeated his view that “it’s all about the programming” which he’s overhauling, and problems with Nielsen’s measurements. He also talked up Paramount and says the current pay TV arrangement — where subscribers have to pay for channels that they don’t watch — is a “great economic model.”

Comments (2)

Could A Pay TV Provider Drop Viacom’s Channels? It’s Possible, Analyst Says

By | Tuesday June 12, 2012 @ 7:07am PDT

Bernstein Research analyst Todd Juenger has written several provocative reports in the five months since he began covering media for the investment company — but his blast today at Viacom ranks among his toughest yet. Juenger lowered his price target by $1 to $47 warning investors that, with the steep ratings declines at Nickelodeon and MTV, “it is no longer inconceivable that a distributor would drop Viacom, or at least engage in a public battle with them over price increases.” While the odds of a Viacom black out are low, the mere possibility could make a world of difference to Wall Street: If CEO Philippe Dauman can’t extract high-single digit annual fee increases from cable and satellite companies then “the Viacom story would unravel.” It’s hard to say when Viacom might run into trouble, if it happens at all. “The timing of (its) affiliate fee negotiations remain the best kept secret in media,” Juenger says. But he adds that prudent investors should lighten up on their Viacom holdings “before such an event took place.” Read More »

Comments (14)

Viacom Chief Says Paramount Developing Films With “Consumer Products Potential”

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman doesn’t sound anything like Dwight Eisenhower, but he seems to to have the architect of D-Day in mind when he talks about his broad plan to invade retail shelves with licensed merchandise. At Paramount, “for the most part we’re going to greenlight films with consumer products potential,” he told investors today at the Nomura U.S. Media & Telecom Summit. That’s key to his goal for Paramount to “focus on profitability” especially by integrating with other Viacom businesses. He’s particularly excited about Viacom’s plans to relaunch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which Viacom bought for $60M in 2009. The characters will appear in an animated series on Nickelodeon this fall and in a film on Christmas 2013.  ”Everybody knows the  history of it and are excited by the way it’s been reinvented,” Dauman says. “Once you get that strength at the retailer level, it allows you to layer in more properties.” It also ties in with his plan to develop new programs — and marketable characters — to help revive Nickelodeon from its ratings slump. “Nickelodeon will show improvement and it won’t take that long,” he says. Dauman adds that his interest in retail sales contributed to his decision to buy a stake in an Italian animation company with the popular Winx Club franchise, which has “good consumer products for girls.” Read More »

Comments (7)

Viacom Raises Quarterly Dividend By 10%

By | Wednesday May 23, 2012 @ 1:34pm PDT

Viacom Dividend Viacom was “due for an increase,” Wells Fargo Securities analyst Marci Ryvicker says — although she expected a 20% bump. The company raised its dividend on May 25, 2011, and June 9, 2010. Also, it’s generating cash and has a healthy balance sheet. She figures Viacom will make $560M in dividend payments over the next 12 months, equal to about 20% of its free cash flow. CEO Philippe Dauman says that “returning value to our shareholders is a priority for Viacom.” Shares ended the day up 0.7% at $47.21. Here’s the announcement:

Read More »

Comments (0)

UPDATE: Viacom CEO Says Netflix Isn’t Tied To Nickelodeon’s Ratings Drop

UPDATE, 7:00 AM: CEO Philippe Dauman rejects the growing view — articulated yesterday by Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes — that Nickelodeon’s ratings are down because kids are watching much of the channel’s content on Netflix. “There is no silver bullet” Dauman told analysts who wanted to know about the 32% drop in Nick’s audience so far in 2012. Viacom says that Netflix can’t be the culprit: Less than 25% of TV watchers get Netflix, and the time kids spend watching Nickelodeon content on Netflix only amounts to 2% of the viewing time for the cable channel. Even if Netflix-watching kids stopped viewing the cable channel, he says, “it would have minimal impact.” Meanwhile, “we are getting nice revenues from these (subscription VOD) deals.” Dauman still believes that Nick’s woes are at least partly due to glitches in the Nielsen rating system. In addition, he says there’s been “compelling programming on some of our competitors.” Dauman says not to worry: “We’ve seen this level of impact on other major networks in the past and we’ve overcome it….This is what we do.” He says he remains confident that investments in new Nickelodeon programming — including a revival of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise — “will gradually build on our ratings and we will not stop until Nickelodeon gets to bigger and better places….We feel very, very good about the direction. The pipeline is extremely strong.” Read More »

Comments (4)

Sumner Redstone Shows At Viacom Meet; CEO Talks Up Katy Perry & ‘Ninja Turtles’

Sumner Redstone ViacomI don’t know whether Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone’s appearance at this morning’s 45-minute annual meeting will do enough to end the speculation that the 88-year-old majority shareholder is becoming frail. Although he showed up — something he briefly said last week that he couldn’t do, due to a scheduling conflict — attendees couldn’t see him walk to or from the dais. When the meeting began the company pulled back a curtain to show Redstone, CEO Philippe Dauman, and General Counsel Michael Fricklas seated at a table. The curtain closed on Redstone when the event ended. He appeared moderately engaged throughout the session, after reading from a prepared statement. Paraphrasing “my very good friend Mark Twain, who couldn’t be here today,” he said, “my absence from this meeting has been greatly exaggerated.”

Dauman then led the session. He said that Paramount yesterday greenlighted a 3D movie with singer Katy Perry, to be called Part Of Me, that will be released this summer. He also acknowledged that plans are in the works for another Mission: Impossible sequel. Dauman said that cable channel Nick Jr will introduce a “Nick Mom” evening programming block beginning this fall. And he says that he’s enthusiastic about the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series launching on Nickelodeon later this year — to be followed by a Paramount film due out by the end of 2013. Dauman added that the company plans a global consumer products initiative for the franchise. “It’ll be a big hit,” he says. Read More »

Comments (7)

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman Unveils ‘SpongeBob’ Pic Plan, Preaches Cost Containment Gospel For Paramount

By | Tuesday February 28, 2012 @ 11:26am PST

“You’ll never see us risk $300M on a single movie, or $200M — $100M may be the limit,” Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said today in an appearance at the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecom Conference. That also applies to Paramount’s new animation unit, which will release a SpongeBob SquarePants movie in late 2014. The studio only has about 40 people in the operation, and will outsource the handiwork. The films wil be “under a $100M price point, some of them way under.” With advancements in computer animation, even a low budget film can “still look great on screen.” On other matters, Dauman had no new explanations for the dramatic decline in Nickelodeon’s ratings — which he has said may reflect glitches in Nielsen’s measurement as opposed to kids’ indifference to the programming. “We don’t like it, but we’ll deal iwth it and it will improve,” he says. Meanwhile the cable networks business looks strong: In advertising “the tone is improving” with auto, food, and beverage companies spending more than they had. In addition, investors can “count on” Viacom’s ability to negotiate at least high single digit percentage growth in the fees channels collect from pay TV providers. But Dauman didn’t seem to feel the same urgency about the industry’s new TV Everywhere streaming initiatives that CEO Jeff Bewkes displayed in an earlier presentation today. Dauman says it will take as long as three years to roll out as … Read More »

Comments (3)

Viacom CEO Blames “Misinformation” For Shelving Of Anti-Piracy Bills

By | Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 1:51pm PST

Freelancer Cari Lynn is contributing to Deadline’s coverage.

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman acknowledges that it will take time before Congress revisits the anti-piracy bills that Hollywood supported: the Senate’s Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). But the one-time lawyer says that studios and their representatives at the MPAA didn’t lose the recent lobby push on the merits of their case. There was “a lot of misinformation” from Silicon Valley, he said today at a conference sponsored by All Things D. Opponents including the tech industry said that the bills giving the government the power to block overseas sites that traffic in pirated content could be misused to stifle innovation and free speech. “It became almost religious dogma,” Dauman says. He still considers the proposals to be ”very reasonable”, adding that piracy “makes the standards more difficult in greenlighting a film.” Read More »

Comments 23

Viacom’s Philippe Dauman Makes $43.1M In 2011, Down 49%

Last year’s $84.5M package made Dauman one of the highest paid CEOs in the U.S. — and a target for a lot of scorn. But much of his bonanza came from one-time stock awards. Without them he’s still a candidate to be one of the most richly compensated media execs in 2011, based on the data in Viacom’s just-filed proxy. For the fiscal year that ended in September, while Viacom stock was up 7.7%, Dauman’s compensation includes: salary of $3.5M (+33% vs last year), annual stock award of $10.2M (flat), $3.1M in one-time stock (-90.1%), $6.0M in annual option award (flat), and $20M in non-equity incentive compensation (+77.8%). His perks included $232,000 for personal use of Viacom’s aircraft, and $15,000 for car service. Dauman’s package accounted for 39.5% of the compensation that Viacom awarded to its top five execs. His lieutenant, COO Tom Dooley, came in second with $34.1M (-47.3% without one-time stock) — equal to 31.2% of the total for the top five. Viacom said that the duo “executed on key operational goals such as strengthening relationships with key partners, increasing the Company’s investment in  content as well as cost-effectiveness in our operations, building our international operations and returning capital to our stockholders while  maintaining a solid financial position.” Viacom also praised them for achieving  ”strong financial results while continuing to navigate economic challenges and positioning the Company well for the future.” Chairman Sumner Redstone, who controls the company, made $21M (+40%).  … Read More »

Comments (2)

Big Media Still Lack Big Ideas; Moguls No Longer Fear Netflix But Now Worry About Internet Video: UBS Confab Wrapup

For some strange reason, I thought at least one Big Media mogul would use this week’s UBS Annual Media and Communications Conference to reset investor expectations about the Industry. I waited for someone to say that it’s time for execs to stop licking their wounds from the last decade’s disastrous mergers and recessions and to start launching dynamic job-creating initiatives. I even expected someone might  hint at a transformative deal that would expand the digital world’s supply of quality news and entertainment. The timing seemed right for all of the above since most of the CEOs noted that their companies are flush with cash and expect much more to flow their way in 2012, especially from the quadrennial advertising jolt provided by political campaigns and the Olympics. (Forecasters said that total domestic ad sales will be up anywhere from 3.2% to 4% in 2012.) Instead, the moguls mostly ladled out the same thin gruel they delivered throughout this year including their last round of earnings calls. They’ll collect additional revenues by syndicating content to digital streaming services. Or by demanding retransmission consent fees from pay TV providers. And returning cash to investors through dividends or share repurchases. hard to work up enthusiasm about such unimaginative strategies.

While the overarching themes of this year’s conference sounded a lot like last year’s, there was one important difference: Big Media isn’t afraid of Netflix anymore. At last year’s confab, moguls wondered publicly whether they should license TV shows and movies to the fast-growing company that seemed … Read More »

Comments (12)

Viacom’s Philippe Dauman “Frustrated” By Lower Nick Ratings But Patient: UBS Confab

Viacom shares are down about 3.5% at midday on an otherwise up day for the market after CEO Philippe Dauman punted on the big question on the minds of analysts attending the UBS Annual Global Media and Communications Conference: What’s up with the steep decline in Nickelodeon’s ratings — which he said last month was due to a problem with Nielsen’s measurement system? “There’s nothing new” to report, he says. ”No one’s more frustrated than myself.” He didn’t continue his attack the ratings company, which said today that it made a mistake in calculating the number of kids who watch TV — but added that it’s unrelated to the double-digit change in Nickelodeon’s ratings. ”However imperfect Nielsen is, it’s the only game in town, so we have to live with it,” Dauman says. “It is what it is. We’re going to move on.” He acknowledged that the channel’s ratings dive is “unfortunate” because “this is by far the most important quarter for Nickelodeon” due to the number of toymakers who flock to the channel to advertise holiday gifts. But he says the Nick problem will become less significant after the holidays are over. ”One way or the other we’ll move forward” with growing profit margins. Viacom has “more new shows coming to Nickelodeon than we’ve ever had.” He adds that “next quarter we expect to see stronger ad sales growth because we won’t have that issue” with the ratings. Read More »

Comments (9)

Nielsen Admits Mistake In Kids Viewership Data But Stands Behind Nickelodeon Ratings

By | Monday December 5, 2011 @ 8:48am PST

Here’s some more anti-Nielsen fodder for Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman today at his UBS Global Media & Communications Conference appearance: The TV ratings company is admitting that it made a mistake when estimating the number of kids who are watching TV compared with last year. Though not directly related to Dauman’s fight with Nielsen over the ratings decline at kids network Nickelodeon, it’s likely he will use the admission for an I-told-you-so moment: The CEO has been on the hot seat since September, when Nielsen first reported the unusually weak ratings, and now he’s got ammunition for his claim that the decline is a “blip” owing to errors on Nielsen’s side. During the downswing, Viacom has seen analyst downgrades and a boost in make-goods that can’t be recouped during a time when Nick is ramping up its always robust fourth-quarter ad business, when it accounts for about 25% of Viacom’s ad revenue thanks to toy ads around the holidays. Nick also is losing traction to rivals like Disney Channel, which the week of November 20 beat Nick in the ratings for the first time since August 2007. Today, Nielsen is telling the Wall Street Journal that it is revising its estimate on the number of kids who watch TV: from up 1.7% to down 2.9%. The paper said Nielsen found that it failed to “apply a standard adjustment” after Viacom questioned the numbers, but that it has nothing to … Read More »

Comments (7)

Viacom Chief In Hot Seat As Another Analyst Questions Nickelodeon Slide

By | Wednesday November 30, 2011 @ 8:07am PST

Nickelodeon’s Ratings Decline Is No “Blip”; Is Viacom Or Nielsen To Blame?

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman will be playing with fire if he tries to sidestep questions about Nickelodeon’s declining ratings on Monday when he addresses the annual UBS Global Media & Communications Conference: Even some of his company’s more faithful supporters are beginning to wonder what the hell is going on. Today, Nomura Equity Research’s Michael Nathanson joined the pack, decreasing his price target for Viacom shares by $1 to $54 based largely on what he calls the “inexplicable declines” at the channel. He says that Viacom’s total ad growth could be as low as 3% in the last three months of 2011. The reason: Nick’s contribution to Viacom’s ad sales jumps from about 15% most of the year to 25% during the holiday season as companies turn to the kids channel to market toys, movies, and gifts. Nathanson says that’s a problem now given that Nick’s ratings “are down in the high teens, and that the remaining networks are also down (by about -4%).” The poor results plus Viacom’s refusal to provide guidance on ad expectations “remains the core controversy,” Nathanson says. (He still has a “buy” recommendation for Viacom, in part because its plan to repurchase $10B of its shares offsets the new earnings risks.) Early this month, Dauman described the drop in Nick’s ratings beginning in September as a “blip” largely attributable to problems with Nielsen’s measurements … Read More »

Comments (6)

Nickelodeon’s Ratings Decline Is No “Blip”; Is Viacom Or Nielsen To Blame?

Looks like that “inexplicable drop” in Nickelodeon ratings from September that Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman noted in a November 10 conference call with analysts still bedevils the children’s network. Its full-day total audience was down 16.7% in the week of November 20. That gave Disney Channel its first victory over Nickelodeon since August 2007, when Disney introduced High School Musical 2. Nick’s audience of kids 11 and under was off 11% in September vs the same month last year, -17% in October, and -19% for the first three weeks of November. The reports worried Miller Tabak analyst David Joyce enough for him to downgrade Viacom to “neutral” from “buy.” He notes that “advertisers are going to want to pay for the lower Nielsen ratings, which could be resulting in make-goods … that could pressure ad revenue” in the current quarter.

It’s curious, though: When Dauman spoke to analysts early this month, he made it sound like the trouble at Nick was history: He called it “a short-term phenomenon,” adding that “I always believe in looking forward, so we’ll go through that blip, it’s not material to overall company and we will move on.” He also put the blame on Nielsen’s measurements — not Nick’s programming — noting that “independent set-top box data … shows meaningfully different viewership trends.” Read More »

Comments 50

Big Media 3Q Corporate Earnings Roundup: Are CEOs Really Worried About Recession? Or Just Looking For Convenient Excuse?

Three months ago, when Big Media CEOs wrapped up their 2Q earnings, they were still relentlessly upbeat about the business. Any worries about the economy? Not then. But the messages they delivered over the past few weeks, as they discussed 3Q, were different. Although they’re still optimistic — remember, they’re paid to be salesmen — now and then you could hear expressions of concern about where things are headed. It stood out when Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman noted that “ad sales growth will face some headwinds.” Other CEOs who are known for speaking bluntly warned that other shocks may bedevil the business. For example, Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen said that his satellite company — and others in pay TV — have to fight harder against rising programming costs because “there’s a limit to the price increases that could be passed on to consumers.” Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt warned that premium channels such as HBO, Showtime and Starz “are clearly impacted by the economy as consumers try to cut back.” Either they’re genuinely worried, or they want a scapegoat to blame for things that are going bad, or may soon do so. Whatever the case, we can expect to hear a lot more about the economy when it’s time for the post-mortem on the all-important 4Q earnings.

As for industry performance matters, parents of movie studios had their usual mixed results to brag about or explain away: Time Warner benefitted from Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2. Viacom was up on Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. And News Corp beat its chest about Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and X-Men: First Class. But Disney’s Cars 2 was no match for last year’s Toy Story 3. Comcast’s Universal Pictures had nothing to compare to last year’s Despicable Me. Lionsgate suffered from Conan The Barbarian and Warrior. And DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 2 didn’t contribute as much in the quarter as Shrek Forever After did in the same period last year.

Over at the TV networks, Comcast’s NBC underperformed the Street’s already modest expectations. Execs at almost all the companies were eager to talk about the cash they expect to collect soon from political ads — as well as their favorite new ATM machines: retransmission consent deals and digital streamers including Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix. Speaking of Netflix, CEO Reed Hastings once again tried to reassure investors that he’s focused on “building back our reputation and brand strength” after his decision in July to slap a 60% price increase on customers who wanted to continue to rent DVDs and stream videos. In 3Q Netflix lost 57.7% of its market value and 800,000 subscribers. And since that customer loss was bigger than projected, Netflix shares continued to fall — they’re now down 67.3% since July 1.

Here are some other themes from the latest earnings reports:

Ad sales: They’s good, but for how long? Most television networks report that scatter prices are comfortably above the upfront market from this past summer. CBS chief Les Moonves says prices in 4Q are up by “mid-teens” on a percentage basis, while Discovery says it sees least high single digit percentages. But Disney’s Bob Iger noted that scatter prices have “slowed slightly these last few weeks.” Kurt Hall of National CineMedia — the leading seller of ads in movie theaters — was far more direct when he spoke to analysts after ratcheting down his company’s financial forecasts. “I’m sure that the broadcast and cable guys are sitting there now counting their lucky stars they got their upfront done before August,” he told analysts. “There’s a lot of uncertainty.” Read More »

Comments (8)
More Deadline | Hollywood »
« Previous Deadline | Hollywood