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Media giant Viacom saw a bit of a turnaround for the quarter and fiscal year ended 30 September, with significantly improved ratings at some of its networks, including MTV and Comedy Central.

“In the fourth quarter and full year, we made strong progress against our plan to fundamentally stabilise and revitalise Viacom,” said Bob Bakish, president and CEO at Viacom, “with top line gains in both media networks and filmed entertainment segments driven by continued execution on our strategic priorities.”

Significant ratings increases across the portfolio drove sequential improvement in domestic advertising; meanwhile, its international business continues to expand, delivering double-digit revenue increases.

Overall for media networks, quarterly revenues increased 3% to $2.55 billion, driven by growth in advertising revenues, which were up 6% to $1.22 billion, with domestic advertising revenues flat at $936 million, reflecting ratings growth offset by an overall decline in cable subscribers and the strategic reduction of unit loads. International advertising revenues increased 36% to $288 million, driven by the acquisition of Telefe as well as growth in Europe.

Ratings highlights include the fact that Viacom had the No 1 share of viewing on US cable, with the No 1 share for several diverse and coveted audiences including kids 2-11, Millennials, African-Americans, the Adults 18-49 advertising demo, as well as Adults 2-49 across all of TV. In the quarter, domestic media networks grew ratings 3% year-over-year across its entire portfolio, with flagship networks up 6% year-over-year and double-digit increases at MTV and BET. This ratings improvement drove domestic advertising revenues, which stabilised in the quarter after three years of declines.

MTV achieved its first double-digit ratings increase in more than six years domestically, driven by prime time viewership of new shows including Siesta Key - the No 1 original cable series in its timeslot. Moving into fiscal 2018, the multiplatform reboot of TRL drove a 21% increase in total views of MTV's digital and social content, while consistently ranking as a top 10 Most Social Show across broadcast and cable.

Anchored by signature scripted series including the No 1 prime time cable comedy of 2017 - South Park - and a rebuilt late-night slate that now boasts TV's No 1 late night talk show with millennials - The Daily Show with Trevor Noah - Comedy Central continued its turnaround, growing ratings in its key demo for the first time since fiscal 2014.

Viacom International Media Networks meanwhile saw year-over-year revenues up 24% and 12% in the quarter and full year, respectively. Ratings across the VIMN portfolio grew 4% in the quarter, driven by the strong performances of Paramount Channel, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and Channel 5.

Things are going well on the carriage front too, according to Bakish: “We have completed several multi-year renewals of major distribution contracts - including our recent agreement with Charter - which secure broad, long-term carriage of Viacom's networks for subscribers and expand our relationships with distributors through new, forward-looking advanced advertising and content production partnerships. We realised these achievements and established a stable base while reducing debt, improving free cash flow and strengthening our balance sheet.”

Viacom has now renewed or extended agreements for nearly half of its subscriber base in the last year.

Overall for the company, quarterly revenues increased 3% to $3.32 billion, reflecting gains across media networks and filmed entertainment segments. Net earnings from continuing operations grew 167% to $674 million, and adjusted net earnings from continuing operations attributable to Viacom grew 14% to $310 million.

Full year revenues grew 6% to $13.3 billion. Net earnings grew 30% to $1.87 billion, principally due to gains on asset sales, and adjusted net earnings improved 3% to $1.51 billion.

“Viacom is stronger and our momentum continues to build,” Bakish said. “To accelerate our transition to long-term, sustainable growth, we are ramping up the evolution of Viacom's media business to better serve next generation platforms and solutions while continuing to diversify our business and strengthen our global portfolio of flagship brands. In the coming year, we will continue to focus on unleashing the full creativity and energy of Viacom to create greater value for our shareholders and audiences.”
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