Communacopia: Viacom's Dauman Outlines MTV Turnaround

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman outlined plans to rebuild MTV at Goldman Sachs' Communacopia conference Sept 16. Dauman said the firm is working with a wide range of producers with expertise beyond the channel's core reality-programming competency.

The channel is planning to have a series premiere or event every couple of weeks, he said, and is relaunching Tuesday night with a recast The Hills. The male block MTV created for Sunday night is moving to Thursday, and acquired programming will reposition Friday as a new movie night. Dauman also described a new show, Disaster Date, which he has high expectations for. Viacom CEO tells Goldman Sachs conference to expect more programming in more genres from MTV, no big acquisitions for parent company

Separately, MTV greenlighted a new scripted comedy called Warren The Ape.

"We'll have live action, animation and many more genres giving us more opportunity for hits in different areas, all in keeping with our new sensibility," he said.

Dauman said he hopes other MTV Networks channels can follow the successful example of BET, which replaced its programming team and has improved ratings. He also suggested that Spike might make for a good bet on the international front.

On the advertising front, Dauman said the tone was better and that third quarter would see further modest improvement in sequential year-on-year comparisons. He said Viacom wrapped its upfront negotiations with CPMs down 5%, noting that MTV Networks was the first cable group to finalize their agency deals. Inventory was down in the low teens, he added.

"We're seeing retail and food companies and tech spending," Dauman said. "You have continuing wars with Microsoft's Bing [and Apple] and a lot of mobile. One category that continues to be very strong for us is motion pictures--considering the much lower number of titles, we've held our own pretty well."

Speaking about Epix, the movie channel set to launch next month as joint venture among Viacom's Paramount unit, Lionsgate and MGM, Dauman said new distribution contracts would be announced by October. So far Viacom has only announced carriage distribution with Verizon. "We expect the venture to become cash-positive some time by the end of next year."

Dauman dampened speculation about any potential acquisitions, saying not to expect any big multi-billion-dollar deals from Viacom, but rather the company would look for opportunities to buy intellectual properties in the $10 million- to $20 million-range.