Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, coming off a 4% decline in domestic advertising sales in the fourth quarter, says he expects the ad climate to improve in the first quarter of this year.
Ad sales fell for the sixth straight quarter for the media giant, home to MTV, BET and Comedy Central. But Dauman, on a Feb. 11 earnings call, said he was encouraged by strong ratings gains at Nickelodeon and MTV, which has found two hits in Jersey Shore and Teen Mom. Dauman said MTV had four of the top 10 original cable series in its targeted 12-34 year-old demographic in January.
The Viacom CEO stopped short of predicting positive first-quarter ad revenue comparisons, but said scatter pricing continues to be strong, better by double-digit percentages over upfront pricing.
“The tone is clearly more positive,” Dauman said.
For the quarter, Viacom's total revenue was down 3% to $4.1 billion and adjusted operating income rose a strong 24% to $1.2 billion.
Revenue for the Media Networks division, including the cable channels, declined 6% to $2.3 billion, primarily because of sluggish sales of the Rock Band video games and consoles. Operating cash flow at the unit rose 3% to $921 million. Affiliate fees rose by a double-digit percentage, which Dauman said is expected to continue.