Viacom Tops Expectations but Cable Business Sees Ad Sales, Pay-TV Fees Fall

Ratings at MTV and VH1 Improve in First Quarter

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Kendrick Lamar performs at MTV's upfront presentation this month.
Kendrick Lamar performs at MTV's upfront presentation this month. Credit: Courtesy MTV

Viacom, part of ailing billionaire Sumner Redstone's media empire, posted second-quarter results that beat analysts' estimates, helped by two late 2015 film releases, "Daddy's Home" and "The Big Short."

Profit excluding some items fell to 76 cents a share, the New York-based owner of MTV and Comedy Central said Thursday in a statement. Analysts were forecasting 72 cents, the average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue, though down from a year ago, totaled $3 billion in the period ended March 31 and compared with analysts' projections of $2.98 billion.

While beating estimates, the results show Viacom's two businesses -- cable TV networks and motion pictures -- continue to struggle. The larger cable unit has suffered from shrinking advertising sales and stalled growth in the fees it collects from pay-TV subscribers.

Audience ratings at MTV and VH1 did improve in the quarter after declining last year.

The broader outlook for the company is clouded by litigation surrounding the mental competency of Mr. Redstone, who holds an 80% voting stake.

Profit at the media networks fell 11% to $805 million, as advertising sales shrank and the company saw a "modest" decline in cable-channel subscribers. The Paramount Pictures division had a loss of $136 million after "Zoolander 2" and "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" flopped at the box office. The two late 2015 movie releases helped narrow the loss.

Viacom is in the process of selling a stake in Paramount, which will release "Star Trek" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" films this summer, and is also working to turn around its cable networks.

The company last week signed a long-term agreement with Dish Network Corp., the third-largest pay-TV provider in the U.S, that will lift subscriber fees.

Viacom's international TV networks continue to be a bright spot despite currency headwinds, as affiliate fees and advertising sales increased.

-- Bloomberg News

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