Viacom 4Q

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Keep an eye on Epix, the joint venture of Viacom, MGM and Lions Gate this year. The channel's backers are looking to step up promotions for the channel and are considering increasing original scripted programming, Viacom chmn/CEO Philippe Dauman said Thurs during the programmer's earnings call. As part of Viacom's recent multi-year deal with Time Warner Cable, Epix will be offered for the 1st time to TWC and Bright House subs starting in May. Viacom will make all the promotions “work very positively for Time Warner Cable” as it seeks additional distribution deals, Dauman said. The potential Charter /TWC merger wouldn't significantly affect Viacom nets, he said. “We look forward to seeing what happens as a result of what's going on now.” It was a solid 4Q for Viacom as profit grew 16% YOY to $547mln, partly helped by strong performance from the cable nets. However, weakness on the movie business drove revenue down 3.5% YOY to $3.2bln. Remember Dauman's comments last year that there will be a virtual MVPD this year? He's not giving up, saying he now expects “at least one” in '14, “based on a variety of discussions that we are having.” “That's a good opportunity for us to enter into a new relationship with emerging distributors,” he said. Ratings are up at Nick and Comedy Central, boosting TV ad sales, which was up 6% YOY to $2.5bln. Dauman expects sequentially higher domestic ad revenue in 1Q. After an ad slowdown in the last few months, demand appears to have picked up to normal, Wells Fargo analysts said in a research note. As Viacom readies to launch Paramount Channels in Russia and Hungary and MTV networks in Russia and Brazil, Dauman said the company will “take every opportunity we see to launch a new network” internationally.

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