Viacom CEO Discusses Animation Film Strategy

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Philippe Dauman comments on the future of a distribution deal with DreamWorks Animation and the company's plans for its own animated fare

NEW YORK -- Viacom's Paramount Pictures "would be pleased" to extend a film distribution deal with DreamWorks Animation, which expires next year, but both sides could live without it, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said Thursday.

"We value the relationship, and I know [DWA CEO] Jeffrey [Katzenberg] values the relationship as well," he said on his company's quarterly earnings conference call.

"We have a strong relationship," Dauman added and highlighted that "our studio is working very hard" on the late May release of DWA's Kung Fu Panda 2.

But he also said he is sure both sides would do fine if the relationship didn't continue. "We are sure we would both do well one scenario or another," Dauman said. He highlighted Paramount's "strong" development pipeline and said there are also more distribution relationship opportunities emerging.

Hollywood observers have long wondered whether the partnership will survive. DWA is believed to be eyeing a lower distribution fee than the current 8 percent fee.

Katzenberg earlier this week also lauded Paramount for doing an "excellent job," but said he expected no real movement on the future of the deal until next year.

Confronted with that statement, Dauman said his team would be glad to entertain discussions whenever Katzenberg feels is an appropriate time.

Planning for the 2013 and 2014 Paramount slate is in its early phases, Dauman signaled, but emphasized that Paramount would be able to accommodate DWA - or not, whatever the case may be.

Asked about Viacom's own animation film efforts, he said his team was "pleased" with the recent first foray in the form of Rango.

Dauman said Viacom wants to build the Nickelodeon movie brand and sees opportunities for existing Nick franchises, but is also looking for originals.

Dauman highlighted at one point Thursday that the DWA-Viacom relationship is multi-faceted and goes beyond the studio division.

Nickelodeon has been an "enthusiastic" supporter of film releases and TV product from DWA, he said, pointing to the network's Penguins of Madagascar show and an upcoming Kung Fu Panda show.