Viacom's Dauman is bullish, thanks to digital
All the biggest media CEOs are gathered at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia media conference in Manhattan Tuesday and Wednesday.
One persistent theme stressed by a broad range of senior executives, from Disney's Bob Iger, to Time Warner Cable's CFO Arthur Minson to Viacom's Philippe Dauman, has been the huge opportunity in digital revenue. And so far, they all say that the digital opportunity is incremental—it isn't eating into their core business.
Dauman sat down with CNBC to talk about his outlook for Viacom's future. With the stock up nearly 60 percent over the past year and the company accelerating its stock buyback on expectations on upcoming growth, Dauman is bullish.
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Viacom has been making a slew of digital content deals—earlier this year signing a distribution deal with Amazon's streaming service, recently licensing clips of shows from its cable channels to Viacom. And forging new ground for the television business, this summer it inked a major deal with Twitter, to include clips (along with ads) in tweets, designed to drive traffic to Viacom's channels, and viewers back to Twitter.
Though the same teen and twentysomething audience, which watches TV, is spending more time on social and mobile tools like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr, Dauman said they're not competition, but are instead helping his business.
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"It grows our revenue and all this technological change is good for us in particular, because our audiences are living on their devices and they also live watching television," Dauman said. "The more opportunities they have to engage, watch and experience our content in more places, on more devices, the more revenue we can ultimately generate."
A perfect example of this virtuous cycle, Dauman noted, is the massive Twitter conversation about the Video Music Awards on MTV. That awards show kicked off Viacom's partnership with Twitter, where Miley Cyrus' controversial "twerking" performance sparked chatter and drove ratings.
"It was a very successful Video Music Awards. We set Twitter records, thank you Miley Cyrus," Dauman said.
"The Video Music Awards are a signature show for MTV and we put our performers there and we wait to see what happens, and it drives the social conversation. We've taught America a few new words they didn't know before, and it's just a lot of fun."
Another potential digital revenue gold mine down the line: fees from streaming TV services. Viacom is in the process of negotiating to distribute through the pay-TV services Sony and Intel are developing. The big question: Does that mean Viacom is wiling to sell its channels a la carte?
The resounding answer from Dauman: Absolutely not. He has no plans to split up Viacom's bundle of cable channels, calling "the bundle" a "really great offering," a "great monetization opportunity for us and consumers."
Is breaking up that bundle an option? Dauman gave a big smile and said "We obviously are looking to maintain our high rate of growth and profitability."
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As for Viacom's more traditional business, no news is good news. Dauman said, "the ad market is good for us," and all of Viacom's cable deals are being resolved quietly.
—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin. Follow her on Twitter: @JBoorstin