Wed, May 27, 3:14 PM
- Heading off the usual channel-blackout drama, Mediacom and Viacom (VIA, VIAB) have renewed their contract with days to spare, keeping Viacom's 19 national networks and premium channel Epix flowing to subscribers.
- Viacom's fee increase last year didn't go over as smoothly with Suddenlink and Cable One, where there were channel drops. Suddenlink doesn't plan to reinstate Viacom programming.
- In the deal, Mediacom -- the country's No. 8 cableco, with about 890K subscribers -- will get more free video-on-demand content and some expanded functionality for TV Everywhere.
- Still ahead for Viacom: Dish Network talks.
- Previously: Citi: Dish could drop Viacom and come out ahead (Jan. 14 2015)
Wed, May 27, 2:03 PM
- "I would like to buy CBS. I'm not going to," says CEO Les Moonves of the now-frequent speculation that he'd like to take over the controlling stake that Sumner Redstone's firm has in the broadcaster.
- “The board of directors will decide the fate of this company,” he said while speaking at Code Conference, echoing what Redstone has said himself.
- Moonves has reportedly talked with financiers about trying to assemble $2B to buy control of the stake. He added that while TV/Internet distributors are consolidating, he doesn't see the need for content companies to do the same.
- "We don't want to be reunited with them, not them with us," he said of Viacom (VIA, VIAB) -- run by Philippe Dauman, whose style Moonves reportedly clashes with.
- When it comes to CBS working with a revamped Apple TV, Moonves pointed to the key: "money." He's met with Apple's Eddy Cue about joining a small bundle of channels for iOS devices.
- Moonves has previously noted "You can't live without us" in skinny bundles, and today pointed again to must-have attributes: Apple's looking at "a more select group at a lower price. Any one of those groups will need CBS. We have the NFL, which is must-have television."
Fri, May 22, 6:44 PM
- CBS zipped through its annual meeting in about a half hour and, as expected, Chairman Sumner Redstone skipped it, as he did Viacom's meeting in March and recent earnings calls.
- Despite the (upbeat) content of CEO Les Moonves' state-of-the-company presentation, shareholder question No. 1 was about M&A.
- Moonves yet again dismissed rumors that CBS might take over Viacom (VIA, VIAB): “We have no intention at this point in time or any time in the future to take over anybody ... We are very satisfied with our assets and our performance. We don’t see anything like that."
- But considering the nature of Redstone's heavy control of both companies, and the confusion around succession, a sale/merger of one or both after his death gets increasingly likely.
- Redstone's current setup means control of his trust would pass to seven people, only two of which (including daughter Shari Redstone) are family members. The relationship with Shari is reportedly strained, and as Sumner Redstone's live-in girlfriend and ex-girlfriend plan his 92nd birthday party next week, Tony Bennett is invited -- but not Shari.
- At the meeting, Moonves praised the network's increased ownership of its shows (important as content licensing becomes a more significant revenue driver) and its moves into digital distribution.
- Previously: Redstone to skip CBS annual meeting next week (May. 14 2015)
Wed, May 20, 3:13 PM
- Viacom (VIA +1.1%; VIAB +0.9%) is trading up after raising its dividend 21% and confirming it plans to resume stock repurchases in October.
- The company had paused its $20B buyback program alongside a $785M writedown/amortization it announced in early April.
- The company had bought back $15B in shares since late 2010.
- Previously: Viacom buyback pause may be better in long run (Apr. 07 2015)
Wed, May 20, 2:11 PM
Mon, May 18, 8:48 PM
- At a J.P. Morgan investment conference today, Viacom (VIA, VIAB) CEO Philippe Dauman again chipped away at the Nielsen (NYSE:NLSN) ratings model, saying the company's efforts to get past it are bearing fruit.
- Dauman said Viacom is on track, in the next three years, of increasing non-Nielsen-derived revenues to more than 50%, from a current 30%.
- In the past month, the company launched Viacom Vantage, its data-driven ad offering which it said "far exceeded" expectations during a year-long beta program with national partners.
- "A lot of our programming is being viewed on devices not currently measured under the Nielsen system, which is why we are moving toward creating a different kind of currency," says Dauman.
- He also noted that after the company's restructuring this spring (including a $785M writedown), it's moving forward with plans to increase original programming, particularly at Nickelodeon and MTV.
Thu, May 14, 6:13 PM
- Sumner Redstone will skip the CBS annual meeting next week -- another data point in ever-present speculation about his health and succession planning.
- The 91-year-old chairman says he hopes to attend next year's meeting.
- He had skipped Viacom's (VIA, VIAB) meeting in March and wasn't on its Q1 call in January.
- Last week amid reports that daughter Shari Redstone would take his place, he issued a statement to say that a seven-member trust would handle is ownership interests in the two companies (he controls 80% of each's voting shares), and that the boards would decide on their leadership.
Thu, May 14, 3:58 PM
- Amazon.com's Prime Instant Video is dropping a number of Viacom (VIA +1.1%, VIAB +1.1%) shows, notably "reality" fare including Teen Mom and Mob Wives, and shifting money to more original shows and those of other suppliers.
- At the MoffettNathanson Conference, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman downplayed the action, saying "They are generally not current shows ... They move around, we have shows rotating in and rotating out."
- Viacom's endured a season-long ratings slump that has culminated in a restructuring and $785M writedown for programming genres "impacted by changing media consumption habits."
- Other channels that were reality specialists, like Comcast's E network, are making more scripted shows now.
- With the CW and NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment wrapping up the week's TV upfronts today, Dauman says ad spending is playing out much like last year and that softness is due to flaws with Nielsen ratings. He's been beating the drum of more measurable metrics for a while, including the company's launch of data-driven Viacom Vantage ad product.
- Previously: Viacom call: Restructuring mostly done, focus on future (Apr. 30 2015)
- Previously: Viacom takes $785M writedown for restructuring (Apr. 06 2015)
Fri, May 8, 11:37 AM
- A suit that might have slowed down progress on the review of AT&T's (NYSE:T) purchase of DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) has wrapped, with the court throwing out the FCC's order for media companies to disclose their pay-TV programming contracts.
- The agency had asked for the disclosures in connection with their reviews of that deal and of Comcast's now-failed bid for Time Warner Cable, but major content companies including CBS, Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS), Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA) and Viacom (VIA, VIAB) argued the results would cause "irreparable harm" to their negotiating strategies.
- The FCC's order was found "substantially and procedurally flawed." The resolution removes yet another hurdle between AT&T and DirecTV.
- Previously: With Comcast-TWC done, federal suit likely focuses on AT&T-DirecTV (Apr. 24 2015)
Thu, May 7, 4:22 PM
- CBS is up 0.9% after-hours following a Q1 report where it beat expectations with record EPS though revenues declined slightly on lower local ad sales.
- Content licensing and distribution revenues decreased 4%, while affiliate and subscription fees increased 11%, driven by growth in rates.
- Revenues by segment: Entertainment, $2.26B (down 1.8%); Cable Networks, $539M (up 0.3%); Publishing, $145M (down 5%); Local Broadcasting, $596M (down 4.8%).
- Free cash flow was $400M, down from the prior year's $520M.
- CEO Les Moonves pointed to content wins, with "four of the top five new scripted series, all of which we have ownership in and can monetize in a growing number of ways. We will also win the season as the most-watched network in America, with a solid performance across all demographics at a time when others are facing ratings erosion."
- Chairman Sumner Redstone issued a statement to deny reports that his daughter Shari would take his place at CBS and Viacom (NASDAQ:VIA) when he dies: "Decisions about who will succeed me as chairman of CBS and Viacom will be made by the boards of the respective companies, and not by any individual," he wrote. "Despite press reports to the contrary, such decisions have not yet been made."
- Conference call at 4:30 p.m. ET
- Press Release
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)
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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.
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