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Earnings preview: Viacom 4Q sales, profit seen up

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Analysts expect results from Viacom Inc., the owner of MTV, Comedy Central and the Paramount Pictures movie studio, to benefit from ad sales growth and stock buybacks when the company reports its fiscal fourth-quarter results before the market opens Thursday.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Audience ratings and ad revenue are in focus. According to Cowen & Co. analyst Doug Creutz, ratings at children's network Nickelodeon are holding up well, while MTV had a strong third quarter.

Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser said in a research note last month that concerns were overblown that children's viewing was quickly shifting online. Wieser said he believes that Viacom will benefit from advertising revenue growth of 5.5 percent from a year ago.

WHY IT MATTERS: Viacom remains a huge content owner in the media world, operating such popular networks as MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and Spike. It's a key player in rights negotiations with pay TV distributors and its health has an impact on how consumers get access to entertainment, including on mobile devices.

WHAT'S EXPECTED: Analysts polled by FactSet expect Viacom to post adjusted earnings of $1.44 per share on revenue of $3.58 billion.

LAST YEAR'S QUARTER: A year ago, Viacom earned an adjusted $1.21 per share on revenue of $3.36 billion.