Advertising Revenue Decline Sinks Viacom

Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIAB) reported third fiscal quarter earnings per share (EPS) of $0.99 and $3.24 billion in revenue before markets opened today. EPS for the same period a year ago came to $0.97, and last year’s revenue totaled $3.77 billion. The results compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $1.00 and $3.49 billion in revenue.

The company blamed lower advertising revenues and the wrong product mix for its revenue slide. Viacom also noted that the comparable quarter last year included “substantial timing benefits from major films and television event programming, as well as digital distribution agreements.” This year the company squabbled with DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV) before agreeing to a new licensing agreement with the satellite company. That cost Viacom 10 dark days.

The company’s president and CEO said:

Despite challenging year-on-year comparisons with last year’s strong third quarter, Viacom remains committed to pursuing its long-term strategy of international expansion, continued programming investment and ongoing focus on operational discipline. … Looking forward, we will continue to operate efficiently to maintain our competitive and creative edge, and over time, return significant value to shareholders.

The company did not comment on its outlook for the rest of the year. The consensus estimate for Viacom’s fourth quarter calls for EPS of $1.25 on revenues of $3.71 billion. For the full year, EPS is forecast at $4.28 on revenues of $14.51 billion.

Ad revenue from the media networks division fell by $125 million, or 5%, to $2.27 billion. Domestic advertising revenue fell by 7% year-over-year, and worldwide advertising revenue fell by 9%. The other big hit came in the company’s film division, which released three new films in the quarter, compared with four released in the same period last year. Worldwide theatrical revenues fell by 52% and the filmed entertainment division’s revenues fell by 29%, or nearly $400 million.

Shares are down 8.7% in premarket trading today, at $41.83. The current 52-week range is $35.12 to $49.85. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of $54.73 before today’s results were announced.

Paul Ausick