Dauman having 'good conversations'

Viacom chief upbeat on new cable venture

NEW ORLEANS -- Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman said he's had a lot of "good conversations" with cablers about carrying the new premium TV joint venture between MGM, Lionsgate and his company's Paramount Pictures.

Cable and satellite TV firms have reportedly given the new premium service an icy reception, but Dauman was upbeat Sunday.

Sitting next to Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts at a press conference following the opening session of the NCTA Cable Show '08, Dauman joked that he carries around a signature page -- pulling a sheet of paper out of his jacket pocket -- for Roberts "to sign whenever he chooses."

Asked by a reporter if Comcast is planning to ink an agreement to carry the new channel, Roberts avoided giving an answer.

"You've got to let the guy behind you ask a question," he quipped.

Dauman declined to say more about carriage other than he's expecting to make several announcements in the coming weeks and months, including a name for the premium service. Asked why launching a new service was better than continuing to negotiate an output-deal renewal with Showtime, Dauman touted its video-on-demand component.

"It's going to provide a lot more VOD on the first day of the pay window," he said. "That's not the case with our movies currently being shown on the incumbent service. We're really reinventing the window to take advantage of all the new technology and to adapt to what consumers are looking for."

He added that this is an opportunity for the three studios "to control our own destiny and not be bound by the tenants and structures of the business created by HBO and followed by Showtime and later Starz so that we're able to service the consumers better."

The service is set to launch in fall 2009.