Viacom 4Q Profit Soars on Higher TV Rates

Viacom (VIA) reported on Thursday an 18% improvement in fourth-quarter earnings that surpassed Wall Street expectations, as higher fees and advertising revenues fueled growth in some of its most popular television channels.

The New York-based operator of MTV Networks, which includes channels such as VH1, MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, said it earned $576 million, or a dollar a share, compared with $488 million, or 80 cents a share, in the same quarter last year.

Excluding special items, the company said it earned $1.06 a share, topping the $1.02 estimate put forth by analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Revenue for the three months ended Sept. 30 was $4.05 billion, up 22% from $3.33 billion a year ago, trumping the Street’s view of $3.75 billion. Sales grew in both its filmed entertainment and media networks segments, the latter up on a 7% increase in worldwide advertising revenues and 11% increase in global affiliate fees.

The company attributed the improvement during the quarter to “investment in innovative programming” at MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and BET, and a “disciplined franchise-centric approach” in Paramount Pictures that has boosted results at both domestic and international box offices.

“Our financial position is as strong as it has ever been, which allows us to continue to invest in the growth of our businesses, including new branded television networks in the U.S. and internationally, and Paramount's recently launched animation label, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said in a statement.

The company expanded its stock repurchase program to $10 billion during the quarter from $4 billion previously. As of Nov. 9, Viacom had $7.22 billion in its earlier approved $10 billion stock buyback deal.