Viacom’s Upfront Dollars and FY Q3 Ad Revenue Are Up

Pushing affiliate fees as a main source of growth

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman told investors on today's third-quarter earnings call that the company's TV division managed to secure mid-single-digit volume increases at its adult television networks division during this year's upfront "by going out early." Pricing was not discussed, but Dauman essentially said to wait a few months for ad sales "to turn positive" though dollars were up overall for the upfront over last year's sales.

The company hopes to see rising ratings among new programs on kids network Nickelodeon. Dauman said that the company "didn't have enough inventory to meet demand" in the all-important fourth quarter of last year, but with new video game consoles hitting the market this holiday season, Nick will be able to sell those advertisers the GRPs they need. On the adult side, it was harder to find a positive talking point. The exec touted increases at low-rated CMT and at one point mentioned gains on Nick at Nite for reruns of Full House.

As usual, the company is pushing affiliate fees as a main source of growth at its television networks—Dauman said he expected increased pricing in that category to result in 10 percent growth for fees overall by year-end. Viacom has been involved in several high-profile disputes, but ultimately the company's willingness to stare down its competitors has resulted in robust growth in a difficult category.

The company did not break out its ad dollars, but operating income at its media networks division (which includes MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, Nickelodeon, CMT and BET, amount others) was up significantly: 13 percent, from $2.26 billion to $2.57 billion.

During the Q&A session, Dauman took a few jabs at Nielsen's new Online Campaign Ratings system, making him one of many to do so since the launch of the measurement tool last year. "We are not participating in the OCR system, which we believe has a number of flaws, but we have first-party data that we can marry with traditional Nielsen ratings," he told investors.

Dauman, like many in his industry, wants greater acceptance of his company's own metrics from advertisers—panel data is impartial, but it frustrates many with perceived undermeasurement. "Increasingly, you will see the importance of first-party data growing as well as the importance of other third-party data," he predicted.