Viacom's Dauman sees ad sales stabilizing

Exec says upfront season is just getting up to speed

NEW YORK -- Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman predicted a drawn-out upfront advertising market Wednesday and reiterated that ad sales have stabilized in recent weeks.

"There has been stabilization" for weeks now going back to March, he said 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."
In their recent quarterly earnings calls, industry executives including Dauman had first talked of the stabilization, and investors have been looking for signs that it wasn't just temporary.

Discussing the upfront marketplace, he said: "The upfront really hasn't begun." Added Dauman: "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 a recently announced Discovery Communications joint venture with Hasbro to launch a new kids network, Dauman said he is not concerned that it will hurt Viacom's Nickelodeon.

"We're not worried about that at all," he said. "You can't force in programming as a promotional product. We welcome any competition (and we're going to beat them)."