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Dauman: Studio Agnostic About Delivery of Content as Long as It Gets Paid

27 May, 2009 By: Chris Tribbey

Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman said May 27 that his company embraces video-on-demand and the Internet for content from Paramount, Comedy Central and other properties. But, speaking in New York City at the 2009 Sanford C. Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference, he warned that peer-to-peer networks are a very real threat to every company that creates content.

“Piracy has always been prevalent in our business. Peer-to-peer networks are still a problem. The studios need to remain vigilant,” he said, praising some countries, like India, for their efforts against international piracy, while chastising others, like China, for allowing rampant piracy.

Dauman said that VOD is profitable for Viacom, even when some of the offerings from certain cable operators are free. However, while day-and-date VOD and home video releases may make sense in some cases, the company still must study the economic impacts.

“We’re very careful how we window our product,” Dauman said. “You have to be very careful when you move windows. As you know, the DVD revenue stream is the most important. We’re agnostic as to how people view our content, as long as we get paid for it.”

For Paramount, Dauman pointed to the recent success of Star Trek, and the anticipated successes of the second Transformers movie and G.I. Joe later this year, as reasons to be upbeat about the studio. He reiterated that the studio is focused on franchises and a leaner, meaner release slate.

“We just have these franchises that have great potential, little downside, and they perform well on DVD, even in a weak DVD market,” he said. “[Paramount] is really a great cash generator for us right now.”

In terms of declining advertising revenue, Dauman said he believes the worst has passed for content companies.

“The deterioration we saw at the end of last year, beginning of this year, has stopped,” he said. “The tone is better. There’s stability across all industries.”

Dauman also said channels such as Spike TV and Nickelodeon are seeing good growth, while Viacom has had to take a hard look at programming moves for MTV and BET to combat a drop in viewers.

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