Viacom's U.S. Ad Sales Drop, Company Strikes Deal to Sell Snapchat's Ads

Focus on Younger Audiences Exposes Viacom to Greater Ratings Pressure

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MTV's 'The Shannara Chronicles' is a TV show about several teens who must embark on a quest.
MTV's 'The Shannara Chronicles' is a TV show about several teens who must embark on a quest. Credit: MTV

Cable-TV programmer Viacom reported lower fiscal first-quarter sales and profit, highlighting the challenges confronting newly elected Chairman Philippe Dauman as he tries to rebound from shrinking ad sales and viewer losses.

Adjusted profit fell 9% from a year earlier to $1.18 a share, the owner of MTV and Nickelodeon cable networks said Tuesday in a statement. That matched the average of 32 analysts' estimates. Revenue fell 6% to $3.15 billion, compared with projections of $3.27 billion.

Viacom's domestic advertising revenue fell 4%.

With its focus on younger audiences, New York-based Viacom is more vulnerable than other entertainment companies to competition from online media, like YouTube and Hulu. That's pressuring CEO Philippe Dauman to increase spending on new shows to draw in audiences.

To reach younger viewers, Viacom is establishing new channels through Snapchat's Discover feature and will begin selling ads on behalf of the disappearing-message service, the companies said Tuesday in a separate statement.

Mr. Dauman, 61, also became Viacom's chairman last week when Chairman Sumner Redstone, 92, stepped down.

The new chairman was elected last week in a 10-1 board vote, receiving backing from Mr. Redstone but not from the billionaire's daughter, Shari Redstone, who has called for an independent leader for the position. Mr. Dauman is a member of Mr. Redstone's trust and has responsibility for his medical care, though the latter responsibility is being challenged in a court case by a former companion of the billionaire.

Mr. Dauman has about nine months to set Viacom on a different course, according to investor Mario Gabelli, whose Gabelli Funds is the second-largest owner of Viacom voting shares after the Redstone family. "Talking ratings improvements isn't going to work," he said in an interview last week.

While MTV's "Teen Mom," a reality series about teenage mothers, has been a success, the network has had some high- profile flops. "Finding Carter," a drama about a kidnapped girl who returns to her biological family, got canceled in January after two seasons with low ratings. Comedy Central suffered the losses of its two biggest stars, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, though it has a hit with "Inside Amy Schumer."

-- Bloomberg News

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