Viacom posts 16 pct increase in fiscal 1st-qtr net income on lower film-related losses

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Viacom’s net income for the first quarter jumped 16 per cent as lower costs at its film division more than offset a steep drop in revenue there.

The New York company, which owns Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central and Paramount Pictures, got strong results from its TV networks with revenue in that division jumping 6 per cent to $2.54 billion. That was driven by higher affiliate fees and advertising revenue.

Viacom President and CEO Philippe Dauman said that Nickelodeon regained the top spot among kids aged two to 11 during the quarter, boosted by new shows as well as standbys like “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

Film revenue tumbled 30 per cent to $681 million, however, with fewer new movies compared to last year. There was a 52 per cent slide in theatrical revenue and a 37 per cent drop in home-entertainment revenue.

At the same time, because there were fewer films, operating losses also shrunk. Total expenses dropped 11 per cent to $2.24 billion.

Viacom says it has high expectations for a slate of movies set for release this summer, including the next instalment of the “Transformers” series and a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie. The bulk of the movie studio profits will come in the back half of the fiscal year, the company said.

For the quarter ended Dec. 31, Viacom earned $547 million, or $1.20 per share. That compares with $470 million, or 92 cents per share, in the same quarter the year before.

Revenue fell 4 per cent to $3.2 billion from $3.31 billion.

Analysts polled by FactSet expected a profit of $1.16 per share on $3.3 billion in revenue.

In morning trading, Viacom shares rose $2.44, or 3 per cent, to $83.41 after peaking at $84.60 shortly after the market opened.

Over the past 52 weeks, the stock has traded between $57.13 and $87.84. And over the past 12 months, the stock has gained about 40 per cent.