Ad Revenue Returns to Growth at Viacom, if Only Mildly

Ratings Improve at Several Networks

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Viacom, owner of cable networks Nickelodeon and MTV as well as the Paramount film studio, reported quarterly profit that exceeded analysts' estimates on improved advertising sales.

Ke$ha in 'Ke$ha: My Crazy Beautiful Life,' a new series on MTV
Ke$ha in 'Ke$ha: My Crazy Beautiful Life,' a new series on MTV Credit: MTV

Net income fell 18% to $478 million, or 96 cents a share, in the quarter ended March 31, from $585 million, or $1.07, a year earlier, the company said today in a statement. Excluding some items, profit totaled 96 cents a share. Analysts had projected 95 cents, the average of 30 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

"Ratings are up at several networks, and advertising revenues have returned to year-over-year growth, up 2%," Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman said in the statement.

Viacom, which relies on its TV business for more than 90% of annual operating income, has suffered audience declines at its top-tier networks, including Nickelodeon. Domestic ad revenue declined 6% in the previous quarter, a drop that Viacom attributed to lower ratings.

Mr. Dauman said earlier this year that he planned to improve Nickelodeon with new content appealing to preschoolers, an audience that can grow with the channel.

Revenue declined 6% to $3.14 billion, short of the average analyst estimate of $3.18 billion. In the TV network unit, revenue rose 2% in the quarter to $2.23 billion. Viacom's cable channels also include VH1, CMT, BET and Comedy Central.

Film revenue dropped 20% to $941 million, hurt by lower home-video sales. Mr. Dauman said he was optimistic about the company's film prospects later this year.

"The year ahead remains strong, with audiences eagerly awaiting our upcoming tentpole releases -- 'Star Trek Into Darkness' and 'World War Z,'" he said in the statement. Shares in Viacom, controlled by Chairman Sumner Redstone, have advanced 21% this year.

~ Bloomberg News and Ad Age staff ~

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