Viacom posts a higher profit despite weak advertising

NEW YORK, Thu Nov 15, 2012 – Viacom Inc. reported a rise in quarterly profit, defying weak box-office sales and a challenging advertising environment.

The company said on Thursday that fiscal fourth-quarter net income rose 12 percent to $643 million even though revenue fell 17 percent.

“At the end of the day, I think they are really focused on operating efficiency,” said Brian Wieser, an analyst with Pivotal Research Group. “It’s a company that can still grow its margin even in a weak advertising market.”

Viacom has been challenged by a drop in ratings at its once- popular cable networks MTV and Nickelodeon. Domestic advertising revenue declined 6 percent in the latest quarter, but affiliate fees – reaped from contracts with cable operators that pay to air Viacom’s channels – were up 12 percent.

Also during the quarter, Viacom and satellite pay-TV provider DirecTV Group had a showdown resulting in a bruising nine-day blackout this summer of Viacom’s channels on DirecTV. The dispute was over a contract regarding affiliate fees. Viacom said it had negotiated higher fees in the new deal.

Viacom wins reversal in landmark YouTube case over copyrighted videos

SAN FRANCISCO, Thu Apr 5, 2012 – A U.S. appeals court has revived lawsuits by Viacom Inc., the English Premier League and various film studios and television networks accusing Google Inc. of allowing copyrighted videos on its YouTube service without permission.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday reversed a June 2010 lower court decision in favor of YouTube, which had been considered a landmark in setting guidelines for how websites could use content uploaded by users.

“It’s hard to characterize this as anything other than a loss for Google, and potentially a significant one,” said Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law. “It has given new life to a case that Google thought was dead.”

The original $1 billion lawsuit filed by Viacom in 2007 went to the heart of a major issue facing media companies, specifically how to win Internet viewers without ceding control of TV shows, movies and music.

It was seen as a test of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a 1998 federal law making it illegal to produce technology to circumvent anti-piracy measures, and limiting liability of online service providers for copyright infringement by users.

Writing for a two-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit, Judge Jose Cabranes concluded that “a reasonable jury could find that YouTube had actual knowledge or awareness of specific infringing activity on its website.”

A YouTube spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement: “All that is left of the Viacom lawsuit that began as a wholesale attack on YouTube is a dispute over a tiny percentage of videos long ago removed from YouTube. Nothing in this decision impacts the way YouTube is operating.”

Viacom, in a statement, said the appeals court “delivered a definitive, common sense message to YouTube: intentionally ignoring theft is not protected by the law.”

Viacom profit beats Wall Street on cable ads, digital

NEW YORK ― Viacom Inc., parent of MTV and Comedy Central, on Friday reported a bigger-than-expected increase in quarterly profit on strong growth in cable advertising and licensing of TV shows to online sites such as Netflix and Hulu.

Excluding special items, Viacom earned 99 cents per share in its fiscal third quarter, exceeding analysts’ average estimate of 86 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue in the quarter, ended June 30, rose 15 percent to $3.77 billion, ahead of the $3.52 billion expected by analysts.

Advertising revenue at its cable networks rose 14 percent to $1.28 billion, while revenue at its affiliates increased by nearly one-fifth to $971 million, boosted by higher digital distribution revenue as well as rate increases to cable and satellite partners.

While healthy advertising growth has been a common feature of the big media companies’ results in the quarter, digital licensing of TV shows to online partners has been another significant driver of profits.

Viacom struck a new deal with Hulu in February and expanded an existing agreement with Netflix in May, helping to boost its bottom line with one-time licensing fees. A similar effect was seen at Time Warner Inc. and CBS Corp.

“Digital distribution is going to be important for all media players and there’s still upside to come from this,” said David Joyce, analyst at Miller Tabak.

At Viacom’s filmed entertainment unit. Paramount Pictures, revenue grew 13 percent to $1.41 billion on the back of higher TV license fees for movies and DVD sales. But movie box office revenue dropped 9 percent as titles “Thor,” “Super 8” and “Kung Fu Panda” fell short of what Viacom had hoped.