Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman Confident About Nickelodeon's New Direction

 

Count Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman as a fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Dauman used the opportunity at Goldman Sachs' 21st annual Communacopia Conference in New York to plug the latest incarnation of the franchise, telling the audience that the new series premiering Sept. 29 on Nickelodeon is "tremendous, a well-executed show," that he's "excited" for it and that the company already is selling out TMNT merchandise.

The investment types attending the conference are unlikely to watch, of course, but the premiere of TMNT matters to Viacom. Earlier this year, the company fended off analysts who grew noisy with speculation about why its Nickelodeon network was languishing in the ratings. Various explanations were given, from more competition in kids television to the growth of Netflix.

STORY: Nickelodeon Needs to Improve Its Programming, Wall Street Analyst Says

Dauman said he prefers to look forward rather than back at the rough patch.

Nickelodeon spent much of the year rethinking what it is doing, said Dauman. As a result, Viacom has focused more resources on the network, beefing up production and handling a reorganization. "We have over 70 percent more original shows [on Nick] than the comparable period last year," he said. "That shows the extent of production and development we've done."

Then, ticking off a list of new shows premiering soon, Dauman told the conference, "I feel really good what they are doing."

The ratings slide -- which has stabilized in recent months -- also has been speculated as being partly the cause of carriage disputes, such as Viacom's highly publicized standoff with DirecTV earlier this summer that caused a nearly 10-day blackout of Viacom channels including MTV and Comedy Central for the satellite service's subscribers.

STORY: Nickelodeon Chief Creative Officer Named Development, Production Chief

Dauman said the company has emerged from the ordeal in good shape. He is sticking to his guidance that affiliate revenue growth will be in the high-single-digit to low-double-digit range -- "probably at the upper end," he said.

Viacom still believes it has the stronger point when it comes to negotiations with cable and satellite companies. Dauman said distributors' profits have "far exceeded" the programming costs and that Viacom has benefited these companies in more low-key ways, including helping them upsell their broadband services.

As for those same cable and satellite companies that continue to maintain that programming costs need to be curtailed, Dauman noted that some of the biggest drivers of cost increases "have come from networks operating in sports, ironically owned by the distributors themselves."

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner

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