Viacom Ad Sales Decline the Most Since Early 2009

New DirecTV Deal Will Help Revenue, But Ratings Problems Persist

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Viacom, owner of the Paramount film studio and cable networks such as Nickelodeon and MTV , has reported quarterly profit that missed analysts' estimates after advertising sales dropped the most in more than two years.

Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Excluding some items, earnings per share were 97 cents in the period ended June 30, Viacom said Friday in a statement. Analysts had predicted $1 on average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Overall revenue dropped 14% to $3.24 billion, trailing the $3.49 billion analysts estimated.

Ad sales slumped 9%, the most since the March 2009 quarter, during the U.S. recession. Viacom, which is relying on its cable-TV business for 92% of annual operating income, is struggling with a ratings slump at Nickelodeon, the channel aimed at children.

Shares in Viacom, controlled by Chairman Sumner Redstone, fell 4% to $44 at 8:33 a.m. New York time before the markets opened. The stock has increased less than 1% this year.

Quarterly net income decreased 7% to $534 million, or $1.01 a share, from $574 million, or 97 cents, a year earlier.

The networks unit, which also includes Comedy Central and BET, gets revenue from advertising and programming fees paid by TV-service providers.

Viacom renewed a rights deal with DirecTV last month after contentious negotiations that led to a 10-day blackout. The contract gives Viacom more than $600 million annually over the next seven years, a 20% increase over the last agreement, a person familiar with the matter said. The blackout during negotiations caused some DirecTV customers to cancel their service.

The increase in fees could help offset a drop in advertising dollars due to ratings declines at some of its networks, Michael Nathanson, an analyst with Nomura Securities, said in a note last week.

Ratings have been down at Viacom, especially at Nickelodeon. Its daytime viewership fell 27% during the three months ended in March, according to David Bank, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets in New York. "However, we see some bright spots for MTV ," Bank said in a note last month, citing the popular shows "16 and Pregnant," "Teen Wolf" and "Teen Mom."

-- Bloomberg News --

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