COO Karmazin Predicts Scatter Sales Ahead of Upfront

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NEW YORK ( -- Viacom reported a 16% increase in revenues for 2001 to $23.22 billion, and earnings growth of 28% to $4.55 billion.

But the company showed a net loss of $224 million, of 13 cents per share, after factoring in restructuring expenses at several units.

Revenues were flat at on a pro-forma basis, which factors in acquisitions including the BET network and the combination of CBS and UPN networks and excludes a $512 million charge to cover severance as part of that combination; the charge also excludes a restructuring at MTV and costs to retrofit Blockbuster stores for DVD rentals.

Pro-forma revenues were $23.2 billion, up from $23.09 billion in 2000, and earnings were up 2% to $5.07 billion.

'Promising signs'
Advertising revenues were down 2% in 2001, but there are "promising signs" in spending during the first half, said Mel Karmazin, Viacom's president and chief operating officer. He defended his controversial decision to withhold inventory from the last upfront selling season, saying scatter pricing is either at upfront levels or slightly ahead. Upfront refers to ads sold in advance of the fall season.

Although still early in second-quarter scatter sales, he projected pricing should be 5% to 15% ahead of the upfront. He also said second-quarter cancellations are down from previous quarters.

"Advertisers are keeping the money in their pockets later. The good news is they're spending it," he said.

Viacom executives also touted several upcoming deals with major advertisers, including new sponsorships in Survivor 4 by Adolph Coors & Co. and Master Foods USA's Mars. Mr. Karmazin said five advertisers are in talks to sign deals with Viacom Plus, the company's cross-media platform, but he would not identify the companies.

No boardroom infighting
In announcing the results, Viacom Chairman-CEO Sumner Redstone tried to dispel rumors of boardroom infighting between him and Mr. Karmazin and lavishly praised his top management.

"For those who don't read newspapers, that means Mel and I -- top management -- are totally in synch," he said. "In short, the mood here is great. Mel and I are getting along great."

Separately, Viacom also announced it acquired KCAL, an independent TV station in Los Angeles, for $615 million. The deal gives Viacom a duopoly in the largest U.S. TV market.

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