Viacom reported a drop in its Q3 2018 earnings, with revenues in the quarter decreasing by 4 percent to $3.24 billion. Losses were seen across both the company’s media networks and filmed entertainment divisions despite the buyout of its EPIX investment the previous quarter, gains in domestic box office sales and the continued revitalization of its struggling media networks.
Viacom CEO Bob Bakish highlighted the company’s continued evolution during the earnings call, particularly with the increased performance of Paramount and MTV. He also sought to reassure investors that growth would continue as it expands its services and partnerships with OTT platforms, driven further with the recent acquisition of AwesomenessTV.
Viacom’s broadcast networks, which include MTV, BET, Nickelodeon, The Paramount Network and more, collectively saw revenues decrease by 2 percent in the quarter to $2.50 billion. The company reported a 17 percent increase in worldwide ancillary revenues to $158 million, but this was offset by a 4 percent decrease in worldwide advertising earnings to $1.19 billion and a 3 percent decrease in worldwide affiliate revenues to $1.15 billion. However, Bakish emphasizes the strength of the upfront.
“We drove our strongest upfront in five years, with mid-to-high single-digit growth across all our cable networks,” Bakish said. “Reflecting the improved strength of our brands and greater share of viewership across our portfolio.”
The growth in upfront pricing also demonstrates the strength of its Advanced Marketing Solutions (AMS) portfolio, which includes its branded content, advanced advertising and experiential offerings. The company expects that AMS will grow to deliver about $300 million in revenue by the end of the year, setting up a return to overall ad sales growth in 2019.
Additionally, Bakish announced that Fox has agreed to license the AMS data science platform behind Viacom Vantage ad targeting product. With this deal, Fox will be the first media partner to use the technology to power the linear optimization service across its networks, a deal that also accounts for Fox’s acquisition by Disney.
Viacom will add another 600 hours of content to its digital offerings, which doesn’t take into account the acquisition of AwesomenessTV, a digital network with strong Gen Z appeal. The company is also establishing a stronger presence on digital platforms such as Amazon Prime and Netflix around the world, the launch of a direct-to-consumer platform and a B2B-C strategy that brings targeted B2C products that are distributed through partners. For example, Nickelodeon’s Noggin channel is available on Amazon Prime Video, and the preschool entertainment channel has seen substantial subscriber growth.
The company plans to leverage brands such as MTV, Comedy Central and BET to create original content for third-party partners. MTV in particular will be using its extensive library of youth-focused and music IPs, which has remained largely untapped.
Viacom delivered a strong revitalization message for Paramount, with both its film and television channels. Paramount Television helped drive a 35 percent increase in licensing revenues, which brought in $404 million in the quarter.
“We’ve stabilized and turned around four critical parts of the business that were under serious pressure 18 months ago,” said Bakish in closing, referring to its domestic affiliates business, audience viewership, domestic ad sales growth and Paramount Pictures. “Viacom is a story of a company broadening its participation in the media landscape.”