Viacom, the company behind Paramount Pictures and such cable networks as MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, Comedy Central and Paramount Network, on Thursday reported better-than-expected fiscal third-quarter earnings.
Its film unit posted its 10th quarterly bottom line improvement in a row, and the firm returned to U.S. advertising growth for the first time since the fiscal third quarter of 2014.
Viacom reported its latest financials amid merger talks with CBS Corp., which like Viacom is controlled by the Redstone family's National Amusements. CBS will post its latest financials after the market close on Thursday. Observers therefore initially expected the deal talks to be completed by Thursday morning and a deal to be unveiled together with the earnings, but sources said the talks are continuing with a focus on the stock exchange ratio, basically the price. One source said final word could come by next week.
Viacom, led by CEO Bob Bakish, posted adjusted earnings of $484 million, or $1.20 per share, for the quarter ended on June 30, compared with $475 million, or $1.18 a share, in the year-ago period. Wall Street had on average expected Viacom to report adjusted earnings of $1.07 per share.
Quarterly revenue rose 4 percent to $3.36 billion, with U.S. advertising revenue in the company's cable networks unit up 6 percent, but affiliate fee revenue down 1 percent due to subscriber declines, "partially offset by higher contractual rates and OTT and studio production revenues."
“Viacom delivered another strong quarter, as our core businesses and investments in strategic priorities fuel our growth and evolution," Bakish said. "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."
Amid the CBS deal talks, he added: "As this quarter shows, Viacom’s brands are strong, our strategy is delivering, and our investments continue to position us well for the future.”
Bakish would lead the combined CBS-Viacom if a deal is reached. Viacom's management isn't expected to comment on the state of talks during its earnings conference call Thursday morning.
Viacom's film unit posted adjusted operating income of $85 million for the fiscal third quarter, up 93 percent from $44 million in the year-ago period. Film unit revenue rose 14 percent to $877 million. Licensing revenue increased 29 percent, driven by library product and growth in TV production, while home entertainment revenue jumped 35 percent, "primarily" benefiting from the release of Bumblebee. Theatrical revenue fell 27 percent though, which Viacom said "reflected the strong performance of Rocketman and PetSematary, which was more than offset by the performance of A Quiet Place in the prior-year quarter."
Viacom's media networks unit posted a 6 percent adjusted operating income drop to $748 million on revenue of $2.5 billion, with the company citing the impact of "marketing for current and upcoming original programming launches, as well as investments in key growth initiatives."