Dauman: MTVN Launching Multiplatform Nets


Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman hinted on a conference call with analysts Thursday morning that MTV Networks will soon launch “multiplatform networks” aimed at adults -- an allusion to a bigger push into online video and possibly the next iteration of a strategy first revealed by MTVN chairman and CEO Judy McGrath in July.

Dauman was vague on the conference call to discuss third-quarter results about what those networks will be, but he said MTVN will make the announcement in the next few weeks.

“We have kicked around some ideas in this company for a while on how to appeal to an adult demographic,” Dauman said on the call. “One of our most creative executives has been working on that notion and has created several very compelling ideas for digital networks with very interesting concepts that are not really out there yet that will serve this adult demographic. I don’t want to jump the gun on the specifics, because I want to leave MTV Networks Group the opportunity to tell you about it with full fanfare. But I think it’s an exciting initiative on our part that will expand our reach.”

It is likely that the executive of whom Dauman was speaking is MTVN president of network development John Sykes. At the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing’s CTAM Summit in Boston in July, McGrath spoke of launching new broadband channels aimed at baby boomers (www.multichannel.com/article/CA6354351.html). That initiative was being shepherded by Sykes.

At the July conference, McGrath said the channels would launch within several weeks, adding that they were originally expected to be linear cable channels, but that strategy changed to include both linear TV and broadband.

That strategy has apparently changed again.

While Dauman would not identify the broadband initiative, it appeared to mirror what McGrath was talking about in July.

“Some of the ideas had focused on linear channels,” Dauman said on Thursday’s conference call. “We think there was a better opportunity to reach people through these multiplatform networks at a very modest cost, both in programming and overhead.”

MTVN declined further comment.
Separately, Viacom said chief financial officer Mike Dolan will step down at the end of the year, marking the first high-profile executive departure at the media giant since former CEO Tom Freston was fired in September.

Dolan, who joined Viacom in 2005, was expected to be one of the first executives to leave after Freston’s departure. Taking his place will be chief administrative officer Tom Dooley, a confidant of chairman Sumner Redstone and Dauman.

On the conference call, Dauman praised Dolan.

“Mike has done a terrific job in guiding Viacom through some extremely complex and high-profile events,” Dauman said. “I have really enjoyed working with Mike, he is a true gentleman and I am looking forward to continue to work with him over the next couple of months.”

For the third quarter, Viacom reported a 7% increase in revenue to $2.7 billion, but operating income before depreciation and amortization (OIBDA, a measure of cash flow) dipped 6.6% to $753.9 million from $806.8 million in 2005.

Viacom’s cable networks, including MTVN, reported strong growth, with revenue up 10% to $1.8 billion and operating income up 14% to $777.7 million.