Fri, May. 1, 9:06 PM
- Universal Studios (NASDAQ:CMCSA) has settled a class action suit over underpaying home video royalties for $26M, Deadline Hollywood reports.
- In return for the payments, class members would agree to release claims and agree to accounting revenues based on a 20% royalty going forward.
- The two-year-old lawsuit claims that 20% home video royalties became the norm in the early 1980s, and that films made before then should still be entitled to royalties from 100% of home video revenues.
- The suit also names Paramount Pictures (VIA, VIAB); and that action continues.
Thu, Apr. 30, 11:34 PM
- Following a quarter where Viacom (VIA, VIAB) began a painful restructuring, CEO Philippe Dauman mentioned on its earnings call that the moves are "largely complete" and focus is turning to new investments.
- "It’s a big evolution going forward," Dauman said. "This is not just about saving cost -- although we are saving cost -- it’s about growing revenue. And I think we will see the results of that in fairly short order."
- The company's made some progress in its plan to shift half its ad business away from traditional TV ratings, of which Dauman has been a loud critic: "We are moving away as rapidly as possible from traditional methods of measurement and towards a more meaningful and powerful dynamic intelligence platform that enables our marketing partners to tap into the unique cultural connections our content has with the consumers they want to reach."
- Partway through a spate of layoffs, facing "changing media consumption habits," the company took a big $785M writedown/amortization on programming. "We're becoming less reliant on old, not-so-relevant programming we acquired years ago," Dauman said. "We said goodbye to that, and we're saying hello to a lot of new, more engaging, more live."
- Today: VIA -4.4%; VIAB -3.9%.
- Previously: Viacom beats by $0.07, misses on revenue (Apr. 30 2015)
Thu, Apr. 30, 6:59 AM
Wed, Apr. 29, 10:33 PM
- Confirming some industry speculation, Lions Gate Entertainment (NYSE:LGF) was close to buying Starz (NASDAQ:STRZA) when the two entered a stock-swap deal in February -- and it fizzled in part because of Starz' valuation, The Wrap's Jon Erlichman writes.
- John Malone (Starz' biggest shareholder) got a board seat at Lions Gate and Starz got 3.43% of LGF in trade for 4.5% of Starz. But Malone reportedly wanted to make a deal, and Starz had talked with Viacom (VIA, VIAB) Sony (NYSE:SNE) and Fox (FOXA, FOX) last fall, Erlichman says.
- Starz reports earnings tomorrow and any buyer will have to pony up more now than last September: Shares are up more than 30% from their lowest point then, to $38.60 today. If Starz' valuation was a problem for LGF in February, it's bigger now.
- But Starz CEO Chris Albrecht describes the two companies as "kissing cousins" and a consolidating industry may force Malone's hand somewhat.
- Previously: Wolff: Get ready for 'M&A mania' with media consolidation (Apr. 09 2015)
- Previously: Maffei: More might come from Malone-Lions Gate relationship (Mar. 09 2015)
Wed, Apr. 29, 9:07 PM
- Viacom (VIA, VIAB) joins data-driven ad sales with a new offering called Viacom Vantage, which it says offers sponsors custom targeting across the company's network portfolio, which includes MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and others.
- The product enables clients to "close the gap between how they define their true segments and where their messages can work best in reaching that audience on our shows," says head of sales Jeff Lucas.
- The offering has been in beta for a year and piloted with national partners, where results "far exceeded" expectations.
- With the move, Viacom joins a crowded field working on such projects, including peers CBS, NBCUniversal and Turner Broadcasting.
Fri, Apr. 24, 7:30 PM
- Comcast has ended its pursuit of Time Warner Cable, but what about that lawsuit from content companies that threatened to slow the whole thing down?
- Companies including CBS, Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Viacom (VIA, VIAB) argued that the FCC's sharing hundreds of thousands of pages of negotiating strategies with third-party merger opponents like Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH) would be "highly damaging." The fight was likely to add several weeks to any related merger consideration.
- The suit, still at the U.S. Court of Appeals, is still in progress because it also involved the ongoing AT&T (NYSE:T) deal to acquire DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV). Attorneys close to the case are figuring that the Comcast-TWC documents will now be off the table as a moot point.
- Still, the decision likely still has an impact on the timeline for AT&T/DirecTV. The FCC will file an updated notification with the court.
- Previously: AT&T sells third-biggest debt offering to fund DirecTV purchase (Apr. 23 2015)
- Previously: Comcast, TWC move higher premarket on merger's end (Apr. 24 2015)
- Previously: It's over: Comcast officially ends $45B pursuit of TWC (Apr. 24 2015)
Tue, Apr. 21, 7:07 PM
- In a deep double-digit ratings slump this season and in need of some reinvention, MTV (VIA, VIAB) used its upfront presentation to highlight new original shows that draw from social media and Web properties, as well as a best-selling fantasy author.
- It's taking some big chances on scripted television. While eight new series are on the way, the network says it has another 85 in development.
- The Shannara Chronicles, a long-in-the-works fantasy series based on the multi-decade book series by Terry Brooks, will join shows like In the Middle of the Night Show, based on a CollegeHumor Web series, and a show following Vine star Logan Paul.
- The network said its horror series Scream, based on the film franchise, will debut June 30.
Thu, Apr. 16, 8:35 PM
- For Viacom (VIA, VIAB), MTV has always been the company's key entree into 18- to 34-year-olds, a coveted youth buyer group, but the success of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report made Comedy Central front and center -- which means replacing those shows' hosts becomes a more fraught task.
- The exits of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are serious business for the comedy channel. Stewart replacement Trevor Noah (announced March 30) received flak over some controversial old jokes before Stewart and the network publicly stood up for him. Colbert replacement Larry Wilmore and The Nightly Show drew about 963K viewers in its debut, while the final episode of The Colbert Report drew 2.5M viewers.
- "Losing Colbert and Stewart is a disaster," says MediaTech Capital's Porter Bibb. "The replacements, no offense, are nonstarters ... no one on the horizon is capable of filling that void."
- "It's not hyperbole at all to compare the impact of Stewart's departure with the times that people like Walter Cronkite and Johnny Carson left their shows," says Syracuse professor Robert Thompson.
- Meanwhile, Pivotal's Brian Wieser thinks high risk means high potential reward for Viacom: "We think that the company's programming will continue to generate high-single-digit revenue growth from licensing specific properties or channels to emerging distributors and by capitalizing on the leverage it has in negotiating bundles with incumbents." His price target is 96; VIA closed today +0.5% to $71.19.
- Previously: Key talent loss for Viacom as Stewart to depart 'Daily Show' (Feb. 10 2015)
Fri, Apr. 10, 8:59 PM
- Paramount Pictures' Interstellar (VIA, VIAB) debuted strong on top of the home-entertainment charts, surpassing some solid competition.
- The film topped The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (NYSE:TWX) on Nielsen's VideoScan sales chart (DVD and Blu-ray).
- The top five was rounded out by Big Hero 6 and Into the Woods (NYSE:DIS), and Penguins of Madagascar (DWA, FOXA).
- The Hobbit sold 57% of Interstellar's units but only 39% of the Blu-rays of the visual-and-sound-heavy space adventure. Blu-rays accounted for 70% of total Interstellar sales.
- The rampaging success of Furious 7 (NASDAQ:CMCSA) pushed the two previous series films, Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6, back into the top 20.
Fri, Apr. 10, 7:47 PM
- Executive pay reports keep rolling out, and while 2014 was anything but stellar for media companies, most Hollywood CEOs made more (a lot more in some cases) -- with Sumner Redstone a notable exception.
- Viacom (VIA, VIAB) founder Redstone -- who skipped Viacom's earnings call and is reportedly ailing -- earned $13.2M in total comp, down from $36.2M the prior year. CEO Philippe Dauman took in $44.3M in 2014. For CBS, Redstone's comp fell 81% to $10.8M.
- The eye-opening number among eye-openers came for Discovery Communications (NASDAQ:DISCA) chief David Zaslav, who drew a staggering $156M in total comp (up 368%) -- mostly from $94M in new stocks and options. His base was $3M. Tying his salary to the company's results is very much intentional.
- Lions Gate's (NYSE:LGF) Jon Feltheimer led gainers with a 400% increase to $63.6M, paced again by stock options.
- Other notables: Rupert Murdoch (NWS, FOX) drew $37.9M in total comp, up 31%, while Fox president Chase Carey got $28M (up 4%); Bob Iger (NYSE:DIS) pulled $46.5M, up 35.6%; Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) CEO Brian Roberts drew $33M (up 5.1%) and NBCUniversal President Steve Burke got $33.9M (up 9%).
Thu, Apr. 9, 9:08 PM
- Don't let recent merger challenges and failures fool you, Michael Wolff argues: "M&A mania" is coming to a media conglomerate near you amid pressure for a new wave of consolidation.
- "Perhaps never before has consolidation been so much the flavor of the month, nor has it seemed so difficult to get a taste," he writes. "The table is set, but nobody's sitting down to eat."
- If Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) fails in its bid for Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), he notes, it just means other cablers will step up to match Comcast's ambition, and Comcast will still look for a way to stay dominant.
- He points to a number of mergers he thinks are easily imaginable: Viacom (NASDAQ:VIA) and FOX? Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Time Warner (NYSE:TWX)? TWC and Charter (NASDAQ:CHTR)? Discovery (NASDAQ:DISCA) and, well, most anyone (Disney, Fox, CBS)?
- Factors encouraging the wave: Media's all about video now, and the pure-play aspect makes merger logic cleaner; distribution and content are separate and now even antagonistic businesses; the growth of over-the-top means not unbundling but re-bundling; and everyone needs scale for negotiation strength in content and ad deals.
- Other key players: John Malone (LMCA, LBTYA, STRZA); Verizon (NYSE:VZ); Lions Gate (NYSE:LGF); Scripps Networks (NYSE:SNI); Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX); DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) and AT&T (NYSE:T); Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH).
Tue, Apr. 7, 8:30 PM
- Viacom (VIAB -1.9%) hit a third rail of investing by suspending stock repurchases as part of its $785M writedown/amortization in restructuring ... but as is often the case, the company may be better off by taking its cost-savings medicine now and picking up the buyback later, Miriam Gottfried writes.
- Viacom has repurchased $15B in shares since October 2010 -- nearly 55% of its current market cap.
- Buybacks shrink outstanding shares, which boosts headline metrics, but "while Viacom will temporarily stop lowering the denominator of that calculation, the cost savings from its restructuring should bump up the numerator."
- Viacom said its new actions should provide some significant ongoing savings of $350M/year, after $175M in fiscal 2015.
- Gottfried compares Viacom's 11.2 forward P/E favorably to peers that range from 17 to 21.1.
- Previously: Viacom off 1.9% following writedown; analysts update targets (Apr. 07 2015)
Tue, Apr. 7, 10:10 AM
- There's some early volume driving Viacom (VIAB -1.9%) lower in the wake of its $785M writedown as part of its restructuring.
- While the company offered few new details on layoffs or its new structure, one telling portion was amortization based on lower revenue expectations, in "certain original programming genres that have been impacted by changing media consumption habits."
- Peter Kafka's sources saw the message there: The Internet is killing the shelf life for Viacom reality shows like Jersey Shore and others that the company purchased from others -- and may have overvalued.
- SA contributor Dana Blankenhorn sees M&A in the firm's near future. The Sumner Redstone era is coming to an end, and one way or another Blankenhorn thinks it's with a sale: "Redstone may not want to sell, but he can either find a buyer now or let his estate auction off the property at some time in the future."
- The B shares face a couple of price target changes today: Wedbush has lowered its target to $77, from $83 (with a Neutral rating), while Deutsche Bank has boosted its target to $85 (with a Buy rating). VIAB is trading at $67.30.
- Previously: Viacom takes $785M writedown for restructuring (Apr. 06 2015)
Mon, Apr. 6, 4:32 PM
- Viacom (NASDAQ:VIAB) is off 1.8% after hours as it announces a $785M pretax writedown/amortization for Q2, in connection with its ongoing layoffs and restructuring.
- Part of the amortization reflects new expectations for revenue in "certain original programming genres that have been impacted by changing media consumption habits."
- Viacom's also pausing its buyback program to maintain its leverage ratio; it expects to resume no later than October, when it starts a new fiscal year.
- The company expects the new actions to provide savings in fiscal 2015 of $175M, and ongoing annual savings of about $350M.
- Previously: CEO: Viacom restructuring to wrap this month, save $250M (Mar. 09 2015)
- Previously: Viacom reportedly prepping companywide layoffs (Feb. 23 2015)
Thu, Apr. 2, 7:58 PM
- Amid challenging cuts at its parent company and executive shuffles, Paramount (VIA, VIAB) and chief Brad Grey have a new imperative, Variety honcho Peter Bart writes: Figuring out how to make more films.
- The studio's first major release this year in a shrinking lineup comes at the end of July, with Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. A hole was left by losing distribution deals with Marvel Studios, DreamWorks Animation and Plan B (Brad Pitt).
- The studio's been pointing to profits, not the reduced slate, Bart notes, but the profits have been in decline for three years. (Fixed overhead eats into companies with a smaller slate of films.)
- The onus is on new production head Marc Evans to ramp up from six to 12-14 films per year, Bart says. Analyst Roger Smith points out that Viacom's studio revenues have slipped every year except for one since 2008.
- Previously: Analyst: Blockbusters leading to booming profit for filmmakers (Apr. 02 2015)
- Previously: Paramount expanding 'Transformers' into more sequels, spinoffs (Mar. 27 2015)
- Previously: Viacom restructuring: Paramount Pictures' turn for layoffs (Mar. 11 2015)
Thu, Apr. 2, 12:39 PM
- Film studios have poured ever-increasing budgets into large franchises and "tentpole" films even as they scale back on mid-sized and budget releases, and with good reason, Robert Fishman says: It's led to skyrocketing profits for Warner Bros (NYSE:TWX), Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA), Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Paramount (VIA, VIAB).
- Tbe MoffettNathanson analyst takes on the always-difficult task of parsing out film profits from entertainment companies' other financials, and estimates those four drew $3.5B in EBITDA from film, up 35% Y/Y, off $24.1B in film revenues (up 7.6%).
- The global film market is helping drive the profit mix to bigger budget films, Fishman says.
- He notes a few risk factors that could slow the profit train, including declines in both domestic attendance and home video sales, as well as more film releases and currency effects.
- Previously: Global box office: 2014 boosted by Asia's moviegoers, especially in China (Mar. 12 2015)
VIA vs. ETF Alternatives
Viacom Inc is an entertainment content company. It connects with audiences in 165 countries and territories and creates television programs, motion pictures, applications, games, consumer products, social media & other entertainment content.
Other News & PR