Don’t raise Todd Juenger’s name if you happen to run in to Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman this morning. The Bernstein Research analyst — who’s also Wall Street’s most vigorous Viacom critic — just unloaded both barrels at the spreading view that the company is poised for a rebound. Shares are +9.6% since New Year’s Day, closing at $57.82 yesterday: As I noted this week, several investors and analysts say that ratings either have or should improve at Nickelodeon and MTV, and will start to look really good when compared to early 2012 when Nick hit the skids. Don’t tell that to Juenger, who just reiterated his “underperform” rating and $52 price target. “We attribute Viacom’s poor ratings primarily to a lack of institutional creative capability, perennial under-investment, excessive reliance on too few hit programs, and liberal online distribution” to companies such as Netflix — which cannibalizes TV viewing — he says. As a result, he places a “low probability on the likelihood of a ratings turnaround.”
Add Wells Fargo Securities’ Marci Ryvicker to the list of analysts who believe that Viacom shares have hit bottom after a year of dreary results — especially at its two flagship channels, Nickelodeon and MTV. Ryvicker upgraded Viacom …
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’.”
Here’s why: Media stocks are up 24.4% over the last six months, outperforming the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500, which rose 15.1% over the period. So they already reflect a lot of optimism. But investors may be disappointed by upcoming news about ad sales, ratings, and ticket sales, Nomura Securities analyst Michael Nathanson says in a report out this morning. His warning comes as media executives prepare to release their quarterly earnings and talk to Wall Street about the state of the business. They conduct hour-long infomercials designed to persuade the world that everything is fine — or, if it manifestly isn’t, that it’s someone else’s fault.
But Nathanson says the companies’ go-go projections about over-the-top ad sales miss how much Japanese auto makers are cutting production as they grapple with parts shortages following the country’s earthquake and tsunami. For example, Toyota will crank out 35,000 fewer cars than planned in North America in March and April. That’s a big deal: Auto companies typically spend about $1,200 on ads for each car they sell. Meanwhile, overall broadcast and cable network ratings stank in the first quarter. The Big Four networks’ live ratings were down 15.9% vs. the same period last year. As for movies, if you don’t know about this year’s miserable ticket sales, then you aren’t paying attention — although Nathanson says that box office would have been up 11% if last year didn’t include Fox’s Avatar and Disney’s Alice In Wonderland.
NEW YORK, July 27 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Viacom Inc. today announced that its Board of Directors has declared a regular quarterly cash dividend of $0.15 per share on its Class A and Class B common stock. The dividend will be payable on October 1, 2010 to stockholders of record at