Dauman: Par is not on block

Viacom CEO says studio is on right path and days of big deals are over

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman on Wednesday shot down suggestions that his company would sell its Paramount Pictures film unit and signaled little hunger for a big film studio like Universal should it become available.

"It's not one we want to sell" because it is a "very fast-growing business" with strong cash flows, he said about Paramount at the second annual Media and Money conference in New York, organized by Dow Jones and Hollywood Reporter parent the Nielsen Co. "Paramount has done great for us. Brad Grey has done a terrific job."

Dauman admitted that film is a "generally tough business," but he argued that Paramount reducing its number of annual releases helps push the film unit along a "sound strategic and financial path."

Speaking about possible acquisitions, Dauman reiterated his view that the days of big deals are over for Viacom.

Asked whether he would pass up Universal if it came up for sale, he said: "We look at things. … But we have no plan to make any significant acquisition."

Dauman also floated the idea of a potential kids version of the successful video game "Rock Band" and gave more color about special features that the premium TV service Viacom, Lionsgate and MGM are working on could offer.

The service has struggled to win distribution deals from cable, satellite TV or telecom companies. But, Dauman said, "we are deeply engaged in distribution discussions" that are "very detailed" already as the service prepares for an October 2009 launch.

"We have added new features that distributors have requested," he said. Among key value propositions that are planned, the service will make all films available in HD and have a "more robust" VOD component and interactive elements. Plus, all movies will be available on the first day of the pay window, Dauman said. (partialdiff)
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