From the Cable & Telecom Conference

MEL KARMAZIN DECLINES TO DISCUSS HIS FUTURE

Viacom COO Reportedly on Outs With Viacom CEO

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BOSTON (AdAge.com) -- Mel Karmazin, president and chief operating officer for Viacom, refused to speculate on his future
Photo: AP
'I can't tell you what's going to happen,' Mel Karmazin told the conference.
with the media company during an appearance today at the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing conference here.

With his contract to expire after 2003, Mr. Karmazin's future has become the subject of speculation as his relationship with Viacom Chairman-CEO Sumner Redstone has reportedly not always gone smoothly.

'Can't tell you'
"I can't tell you what's going to happen after 2003 because I've not focused on it," Mr. Karmazin said. "It's much too soon for me to focus on it. Whether or not I stay at Viacom, I think it's an extraordinary company."

Mr. Karmazin also wouldn't speculate on whether Mr. Redstone would invoke an option that allows him to replace the Viacom board members who came from CBS -- and who may be partial to Mr. Karmazin

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-- after the two companies merged.

"Ask Sumner," Mr. Karmazin said as he entered his car to leave the convention center.

Battle for coveted demographic
On other matters, Mr. Karmazin said he has been pleasantly surprised by the response CBS -- once known as the Geritol network because of its older audience -- lately has received from viewers in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic coveted by advertisers. NBC leads the category, but the oft-hyperbolic Mr. Karmazin said surpassing the General Electric Co.-owned network is the goal.

"We never believed we would ever be anything but No. 4 in 18 to 49," he said. "We want to beat [NBC], and we're going to do whatever we can to beat them."

He also said Viacom is upholding its promise made to David Letterman when he re-signed with CBS to better promote his late-night talk show, using Viacom radio stations, billboards and cable channels.

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