Dauman urges industry to look beyond crises

Viacom chief expresses optimism in MIPCOM keynote

CANNES -- Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman remained confident about the outlook for media performers Monday, despite the shock sell-off of $233 million in CBS and Viacom stock by Sumner Redstone's National Amusements company.

"The obvious market turbulence created a problem for our biggest shareholder, but I am extremely optimistic about the long- and midterm prospects," he told MIPCOM attendees, speaking in a keynote and interview with The Hollywood Reporter editor Elizabeth Guider.

Pointing out that the stock sold in the two companies was less than the $400 million initially reported, Dauman said that he had talked to Redstone before the news was announced.

"We talked very easily -- it wasn't one of his happiest days," Dauman said. "Everyone knows he loves these stocks, but he's fundamentally very pragmatic and used to dealing with adversity, that is one of his strengths."

On Monday, National Amusements said it sold 7 million Viacom shares and 17 million CBS shares, but did not intend to let go of any more stock.

Speaking after delivering a keynote on creativity in the digital age, Dauman said that the recent stock sell-offs will deliver some investment opportunities but that companies have to remain focused on growth.

"Market turbulence creates value for those who seek through what are transitory situations of market panic," he said in a Q&A session. "I think we have to focus on building and growing and look beyond the crises beyond today. The message is, 'Be prudent and take care of your people.' "

Despite the chaos in the equity markets, Dauman said Viacom's longterm plans remain unchanged. "We think our longterm strategy is always to find the growth market -- we have a very clear idea of where we are going," he said.

Dauman added that Viacom will remain "prudent" over costs, but will not detract significantly from its gameplan of building longterm movie franchises as well as kids and family programming, video gaming businesses and domestic and international TV content that it can control and distribute around the world.

Internationally, the launch of comedy channels and HD versions of existing Viacom networks also are growth areas, he said, citing high growth markets such as India -- where Viacom's Colors channel has proven very successful -- as potential areas for more channel expansion.

Asked about his relationship with Redstone, with whom he has worked for more than 20 years, Dauman said there is "no one on the planet you'd rather have by your side in a crisis."

Asked about Redstone's succession plans, Dauman would only say, "That's up to him."
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