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Analyst on Viacom drama: 'This needs to end'

As Viacom's businesses show signs of struggle, analysts told CNBC it's time for the behind-the-scenes drama to end.

"It's having an impact right now, all this noise," Barton Crockett, research analyst at FBR Capital Markets, told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" on Friday. "This needs to end before the wheels fall further off the bus."

Viacom said Friday its fiscal third-quarter earnings will fall short of projections, as the company's film division struggled amid management turmoil within the company.

Sumner Redstone, the company's controlling shareholder, moved to fire CEO Philippe Dauman and four other directors from Viacom's board Thursday, in the latest in a string of disputes among the board. Meanwhile, Paramount's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" film franchise didn't perform as planned at the box office, the company told investors.

"There's no doubt that Viacom has been an underperformer," Crockett said. "What people are seeing here is you can have a better performance, I think, with better management. Certainly what's happening with the governance dispute right now didn't help."

Viacom's Philippe Dauman (L) and Sumner Redstone arrive at the premiere of DreamWork's 'The Heartbreak Kid' at the Mann's Village Theater on September 27, 2007 in Los Angeles, California.
Kevin Winter | Getty Images
Viacom's Philippe Dauman (L) and Sumner Redstone arrive at the premiere of DreamWork's 'The Heartbreak Kid' at the Mann's Village Theater on September 27, 2007 in Los Angeles, California.

Viacom's laggard film businesses seem to be hit hardest, said Wedbush Securities media analyst James Dix. Redstone has tried to block the sale of a minority stake in Paramount, while Dauman, who is still CEO as the court handles the case, has advocated for the sale.

"It seems harsh to blame it all on 'Turtles,'" Dix told "Squawk on the Street" on Friday. "But yeah, it seems like it's primarily the film segment. They actually gave an update, their advertising business seems to be OK, in line with what people were looking for."

Despite Viacom's chopped-down guidance, BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield upgraded its shares to buy Friday, citing the management change if Dauman is successfully removed.

"Viacom has really lost its mojo over the course of the last decade under Dauman, and I think the reality is they need someone that talent trusts," Greenfield told CNBC's "Fast Money Halftime Report" on Friday. "I think fresh blood is certainly needed."

"Viacom has really lost its mojo over the course of the last decade under Dauman, and I think the reality is they need someone that talent trusts." -Rich Greenfield, BTIG analyst

With misfire after misfire from Paramount's highly paid executives, Greenfield said the company needs to reset creatively and reconnect with the millennial generation.

"I think you don't sell Paramount now, I think you work on improving it," he said.

A merger with CBS under Les Moonves has been suggested as a solution for Viacom, a move that would shield the company's turnaround from the scrutiny of cable providers, Greenfield said. But it's unclear if Moonves, or other similarly qualified executives, would want the job, Dix said. Indeed, the company could be broken up, rather than united under one white knight, Crockett said.

Still, Greenfield contends, some changes at the top are likely either way.

"We've been waiting for clear and decisive action, and I think that's exactly what we're getting now," Greenfield said. "Really, Philippe Dauman cannot win. The current board cannot win."

Shares of Viacom are down nearly 34 percent over the past year.

Disclosure: FBR Capital Markets owns more than 1 percent of Viacom stock and Viacom is an investment banking client of FBR.