Viacom CEO: Paramount Did Well Amid 'Unusually Crowded Tentpole Summer'

"World War Z"
"World War Z"
 Paramount Pictures

Viacom top executives on their quarterly earnings call touted the development pipeline at Paramount Pictures and a stabilization in European economic trends.

And they announced that MTV would in the current quarter air a Miley Cyrus weekend. Details of the plans weren't immediately disclosed.

"This was an unusually crowded tentpole summer" that was very competitive, said CEO Philippe Dauman. Paramount's tentpoles, a Star Trek sequel and Brad Pitt's World War Z, "did quite well" in that context, he said.

And Dauman said that while Paramount's operating profit for the fiscal year ended in September was down, the studio was "unique in not having a tentpole that failed during the summer."
 
"We feel we are going to have a solid year at Paramount," Dauman said about the new fiscal year.

"We are currently in production in partnership with Warner Bros. on Interstellar, which is directed by Chris Nolan," COO Tom Dooley told analysts on the call. "Paramount has a number of animation projects in the pipeline, with SpongeBob and Monster Trucks scheduled as the first films to be released under their animation label."

He also touted planned franchise sequels. "We are in development on a number of sequels, including Mission Impossible, Star Trek, G.I. Joe, as well as World War Z," he said.

Dauman lauded the continued ratings improvements at key Viacom networks. And he lauded the social media buzz that the MTV VMAs drew with what he called its Cyrus "moment," which saw her twerking. The performance was "still reverberating around the pop culture landscape," Dauman told analysts.

Dauman on Thursday also lauded a "steadily improving economy" and the "stabilization we are seeing in the European economy," which will allow the company's European networks to return to sustained growth. Continental Europe had a difficult year for Viacom's TV networks unit, but things are looking up now, and the company strengthened its international TV operations during the time by taking control of networks in such markets as Russia, he said.

The stabilization includes Southern Europe, where Italy and Spain had seen challenging times, Dauman said.

He also predicted mid-single digit advertising revenue growth in the current quarter after a 10 percent gain in the fiscal fourth quarter.

Viacom executive chairman Sumner Redstone had opened Thursday's conference call, saying: "Once again, we are reporting outstanding results. Making great content is at the heart of our business."

And he said the company's executive team "is ensuring that our creative success results in solid returns."

As in the past, he introduced Dauman with much praise, calling him "my good friend" and "one of the wisest men I have ever met."

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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