Viacom: No Word on CBS, But 3Q Earnings Increase

Viacom reported higher earnings in the quarter, but remained quiet about a potential combination with CBS.

The company also delivered the long-promised turnaround in advertising sales, with domestic ad revenues rising 6%.

Viacom and CBS are both controlled by the family of Sumner and Shari Redstone and there were reports that with both companies reporting earnings Thursday, the combination of the companies that is being discussed would officially be reported. But the companies were silent about a merger when the financial figures came out.

Net earnings for Viacom’s fiscal third quarter rose to $544 million, or $1.35 a share, from $514 million, or $1.27 a year ago.

Revenues rose 4% to $3.357 billion.

At the company’s Media Networks unit, adjusted operating income was down 6% to $748 million. Revenue was flat at $2.5 billion and there was an increase in spending on marketing for current and upcoming programming launches.

Domestic revenue rose 1% as advertising revenue turned positive, growing 6% to $976 million after five years of declines.

The company said ad growth was fueled by accelerated growth in its Advanced Marketing Solutions unit which offers data-driven targeted advertising and services like influencer marketing, experiential marketing and shopper marketing. Advanced Marketing Solutions revenue was up 84% in the quarter

Looking ahead, Viacom said that it got high-single to double-digit price increase in the upfront, its best result in more than a decade. Agency commitments to digital, social and advanced advertising products doubled. The acquisition of streaming service Pluto TV earlier this year gives the company additional digital video inventory to sell.

Pluto TV's monthly actives users are up 50% so far this year to 18 million as the Viacom has added 28 new channels to the service. Pluto TV has been integrated into Comcast's X1 platform and will be launching on Cox's Countour video and broadband platforms, the company said.

Domestic affiliate revenue was down 1% to $988 million. Earlier this year the company signed a renewal of its distribution agreement with Charter that included a reduction of fees.

“Viacom delivered another strong quarter, as our core businesses and investments in strategic priorities fuel our growth and evolution,” said CEO Bob Bakish.

“Importantly, we returned domestic advertising revenue to growth, which is a direct result of the strategy we have been executing for the last two years and the significant progress we have made in scaling Advanced Marketing Solutions. Paramount’s momentum also continues, keeping us on track to deliver full year profitability,” Bakish said. “As this quarter shows, Viacom’s brands are strong, our strategy is delivering, and our investments continue to position us well for the future.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.