IMPROVED AD REVENUE BOOSTS VIACOM EARNINGS

3% Jump Is First Increase in Four Quarters

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Improvements in advertising revenue helped Viacom post healthy second-quarter results.

"All advertising signs are strong for us," said Mel Karmazin, Viacom's president-chief operating officer.

Up 3%
Advertising revenue is up 3% companywide, the first increase in four quarters for overall ad revenue, said Richard Bressler, the media company's chief financial officer.

In a conference call

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with analysts, Mr. Karmazin noted the company has benefited from not being in the magazine, newspaper and online advertising markets, three areas where advertising remains weak.

Mr. Karmazin said July and August numbers point to a strong upturn in advertising, and by September year-over-year comparisons will become very favorable. He explained Viacom's broadcast networks are sold out of their third-quarter inventory and are seeing interest from buyers in fourth-quarter scatter sales. He said the network, cable and syndication upfront markets produced strong sales.

Strong momentum
"There is today strong advertising momentum," he said.

Viacom, parent of the CBS, MTV and Paramount Pictures, among other properties, showed net income of $546.5 million, up from $16.7 million in 2001. Factoring out accounting changes in 2001, net income was up 4.3% from $524 million in 2001.

Revenue increased 2.3% to $5.85 billion from $5.72 billion in 2001, thanks to increased revenue on its cable and broadcast TV units, both of which increased revenue 4%, while revenue at the Infinity radio and entertainment units was flat.

The Viacom executives also took shots at some of their embattled rivals, mainly AOL Time Warner, boasting that the Viacom-CBS merger is the only big media deal that has produced results. Mr. Karmazin joked he was wearing a T-shirt that said "We will not do anything stupid" and offered to send some to the analysts.

'Model of stability'
"In the context of what's been happening in our industry, Viacom is the model of stability and opportunity," said Sumner Redstone, the compnay's chairman-CEO. "The rationale for our merger is even more compelling."

Mr. Redstone also took pains to praise Mr. Karmazin, whose future at the company -- and his relationship with Mr. Redstone -- is constantly in question.

Mr. Redstone also reaffirmed the company's guidance to investors, calling for double-digit revenue and earnings-per-share growth in 2002.

"We will live up to our promises," he said, something many said AOL Time Warner could not do.

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