Viacom Raises Dividend 10%, Less Than Predicted

Media conglomerate continues buying back its own stock

Viacom has increased its shareholder dividend to 27.5 cents, up 10 percent. The increase takes place starting with Viacom's next quarterly dividend, payable July 2.

The media conglomerate has driven up the share price in recent months as its stock buy-back program continues apace. Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said in a statement that "consistently strong cash flows and a solid balance sheet" contributed to the decision to bump up the dividend; part of that may have to do with the company's resolution of an ongoing dispute with New York-based cable giant Time Warner Cable.

Last week, the two companies issued a joint statement saying that they had privately settled the legal fight over who had the rights to stream Viacom content like shows from Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and MTV on the iPad. "Neither side is conceding its original legal position or will have further comment," the statement said, but with the deadlock broken, verified Time Warner customers have access to plenty of Viacom content.

Still, the increase was smaller than some analysts had predicted (analysts at financial news outlet Bloomberg predicted a bump up to 30 cents).

MSOs like Time Warner have featured prominently in Viacom's current business successes—the company's first-quarter earnings report proclaimed a 56 percent boost to $585 million, and much of the increase was due to a 15 percent spike in affiliate fees payed by satellite and cable operators like Time Warner. Ad sales increased 1 percent (likely due to continuing sluggishness at Nickeolodeon), and the coming upfront season is likely to help Viacom pick some but not all of the slack in that area—Comedy Central is predicted by SNL Kagan to get a 6.2 percent increase in ad revenue, with a 5.9 percent uptick prognoticated for MTV.