Dauman not worried about Discovery venture

Viacom CEO speaks out about new kids channel, ad sales

NEW YORK -- Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman said Wednesday that he isn't concerned about competition for Nickelodeon from a recently announced Discovery Communications/Hasbro kids channel joint venture and reiterated that ad sales have stabilized in recent weeks.

"There has been stabilization" for weeks now going back to March, he said here at the 25th annual Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Strategic Decisions Conference. "Visibility is still low ... (but) the tone is much better than it was a couple of months ago."

His expectation for the upfront marketplace is in line with a generally predicted slow pace. "The upfront really hasn't begun," Dauman said. "It's probable that the upfront season will last for a while this year."

He also said he has "no problem" with doing less business in the upfront and boosting his firm's scatter take given that prices have held up well in the scatter market.

Asked about the Discovery venture with toy maker Hasbro, Dauman said he feels relaxed. "We're not worried about that at all," he said. "You can't force in programming as a promotional product. We welcome any competition." He added that he is confident Nick can beat the new kids network.

In other conference news Wednesday, Liberty Media president and CEO Greg Maffei said at the Barclay's Capital Wireline and Wireless Conference that a combination of Liberty's QVC with fellow home shopping channel HSN, in which Liberty holds a stake, would be a "natural combination" down the line. However, Liberty is prohibited from pursuing such a deal for more than a year and has not approached HSN about a combination, he said.

At the same conference, DirecTV president and CEO Chase Carey said he feels the satellite TV giant is well-positioned for continued success without a much-discussed combination with a telecom firm or rival Dish Network.