Viacom president and chief executive Philippe Dauman said the company was committed to making its content available on whatever platform consumers wanted to find it, but appeared skeptical about the idea of authenticating consumers as pay-TV subscribers before offering access to online video.
Some pay-TV providers and Time Warner chief executive Jeffrey Bewkes have been floating an idea of tying online viewing to TV viewing and the authentication concept derives from the need to prevent people from watching long form video that cable operators have paid dearly to deliver to their customers.
"It wouldn't be very effective if you have to type a pin number in, it has to be seamless to the consumer," he said. He was adamant though that Viacom wanted to increase the number of advertising opportunities across different devices. "The distributors can help us fight piracy. We are very open to working with the distributors on a model where consumers get to enjoy content agnostically."
In a wide ranging interview at the McGraw-Hill Media Summit today, Dauman also elaborated on plans for Epix, the planned premium cable channel partnership with MGM and Lionsgate saying that the company was on track for an October launch and that it would have adequate distribution partners. When asked whether Viacom was making contingency plans in case those two partners get bought, he responded: "There's always going to be mergers and acquisitions talk," and that program making would continue regardless of ownership. "We know were going to be around," he said. Viacom's Paramount unit is also going to be providing TV for the venture.
Touching on the ad market, he said the company was starting to cut deals in the kids upfront. Viacom owns Nickelodeon among other kids channels. In general he said that in the general market, volume was down but CPMs [costs per thousand] were still strong. Media buyers have been hoping that pricing might be coming down given the tough environment.
Dauman chose not to divulge details of his company's digital revenue. When asked about the size of that pool, which was put at $500 million back in 2007, Dauman said: "We don't break it out because it is an integral part of our brands." He said Viacom runs some 300 separate Websites. Some are related to Comedy Central, or MTV, or specific shows or concepts. He added that increasingly the company was deriving revenue driven by its individual brands, rather than simply from ad sales.
Discussing the recession and the poor business climate he said; "Its never as bad, never as hopeless as people say. You go through tough times. There is an end in site and as a company you have to ride through the tough times, contain costs and continue to build your business."
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