Business overview: An investor’s guide to Viacom

Market Realist

An investor's guide to Viacom (Part 1 of 5)

Viacom Inc. (VIA) is a leading global entertainment content company that provides content across television, motion picture, and online and mobile platforms in over 160 countries and territories. The company’s stock was up 66% in 2013 and rose again recently after the company posted a 16% increase in net income, which was more than the analyst estimates. Viacom said its fiscal first-quarter earnings increased on the back of cost cutting initiatives that compensated for a decline in filmed-entertainment revenue. Profit for the quarter increased to $547 million, or $1.20 a share, from $470 million, or $0.92 a share, a year earlier. Revenue fell 4% to $3.2 billion and was below analyst estimates.

As of 2010, Viacom, short for “Video & Audio Communications,” was the world’s fourth-largest media conglomerate, behind The Walt Disney Company (DIS), Time Warner (TWX), and News Corporation (NWSA). Viacom is owned in majority by National Amusements, Inc., a privately owned theater company based in Dedham, Massachusetts, controlled by media mogul Sumner Redstone. Redstone also holds a controlling stake in CBS Corporation via National Amusements.

Viacom aims to be the world’s leading, branded entertainment company across television, motion pictures, and digital media platforms. The company expects to achieve this by focusing on its consumers, enhancing existing brands, developing new brands, and executing on its multiplatform strategy to sustain growth. The media conglomerate operates through two reporting segments: Media networks and filmed entertainment.

Media networks

This segment creates, acquires, and distributes programming and other content to audiences in the U.S. and internationally through traditional cable and satellite distribution, on connected TVs, PCs, tablets, and other mobile devices, and using apps, browsers, and other interfaces. The media networks segment comprises four brand groups—Music & Logo, Nickelodeon, Entertainment, and BET Networks—that operate as Viacom Media Networks. The segment also has hundreds of online, mobile, and app experiences.

Viacom’s leading brands include MTV, VH1, CMT, Logo, BET, CENTRIC, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., TeenNick, Nicktoons, Nick at Nite, COMEDY CENTRAL, TV Land, SPIKE, Tr3s, Paramount Channel, and VIVA.

Viacom Media Networks’ program services reached approximately 700 million households via more than 200 locally programmed and operated TV channels and hundreds of online, mobile, and app experiences in September 2013. The networks’ online properties collectively averaged approximately 58 million unique visitors per month domestically as of 4Q13.

Filmed Entertainment

This segment produces, finances, acquires, and distributes motion pictures and other entertainment content under the Paramount Pictures, Paramount Vantage, Paramount Classics, Insurge Pictures, MTV Films, and Nickelodeon Movies brands. Paramount Pictures, America’s oldest film studio and creator of many of popular motion pictures, is one of the major global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment. In 2013, Paramount announced the creation of Paramount Television, a new television production division focused on developing programming for television and digital platforms.

 Brief history

Viacom was created in 1970 as the television syndication division of CBS, which was formerly Columbia Broadcasting System (1928–1974) and CBS Inc. (1974–1997). Viacom was spun off in 1971 as a result of the then FCC prohibition on TV broadcast networks’ owning cable or other television programming distribution businesses. Upon National Amusements’ acquisition of Viacom International in June 1987, shareholders were given the option of exchanging each share of Viacom International for common shares (and various other merger considerations) in the newly merged Viacom Inc. Viacom acquired MTV networks in 1985, and Paramount and Blockbuster in 1994. In 1999, Viacom acquired its former parent, by this time also known as CBS Corporation, and formerly as Westinghouse Electric. At the end of 2005, Viacom was separated into two companies, creating Viacom Inc. and CBS Corporation at the time of the separation.

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