Riding broad ratings increases, significant improvement in domestic ad sales, and continued growth of its international business, Viacom reported fourth-quarter and full-year earnings this morning headlined by year-over-year gains in revenue and other key financial metrics.
The report serves as an affirmation that the strategy outlined by Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish in his first earnings call in February is working to stabilize and revitalize the business, reversing previous declines in revenue, operating income and operating cash flow.
“In the fourth quarter and full year, we made strong progress against our plan to fundamentally stabilize and revitalize Viacom, with top line gains in both Media Networks and Filmed Entertainment segments driven by continued execution on our strategic priorities,” Bakish said. “We saw significant ratings increases across the portfolio, which drove sequential improvement in domestic advertising; our international business continues to expand, delivering double-digit revenue increases; and Paramount is demonstrating growth across multiple revenue streams as it rebuilds the theatrical slate and continues to grow its TV production business. Additionally, we have completed several multi-year renewals of major distribution contracts – including our recent agreement with Charter – which secure broad, long-term carriage of Viacom’s networks for subscribers and expand our relationships with distributors through new, forward-looking advanced advertising and content production partnerships. We realized these achievements and established a stable base while reducing debt, improving free cash flow and strengthening our balance sheet.
“Viacom is stronger and our momentum continues to build. To accelerate our transition to long-term, sustainable growth, we are ramping up the evolution of Viacom’s media business to better serve next generation platforms and solutions while continuing to diversify our business and strengthen our global portfolio of flagship brands. In the coming year, we will continue to focus on unleashing the full creativity and energy of Viacom to create greater value for our shareholders and audiences.”
Here’s a closer look at what Viacom achieved this quarter, and what lies ahead:
Improved financial performance
The company’s operational and organizational changes have begun yielding financial results. Viacom ended the quarter with increased revenue (+3%, $3.3 billion), adjusted operating income (+7%, $578 million), and adjusted earnings per share (+12%, $0.77). Revenue grew six percent for the full year, to $13.3 billion, while adjusted earnings per share grew two percent to $3.77.
As revenue increased, operating free cash flow also grew 26 percent, to $1.5 billion, while the company reduced gross debt by approximately $2 billion since February, a 15 percent reduction in the company’s debt load and an important step in retaining its investment-grade metrics. The company expects to further reduce its total debt load in 2018.
The most viewers in cable, and growing
Viacom continues its longstanding position as the most-watched cable family in the United States. Behind a varied collection of channels tucked alongside the flagship six of MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and Spike (soon to be Paramount Network), the company has earned a larger share of several coveted audiences than any competitor, including Millennials, African-Americans, and key child and adult demographics:
This position is likely to strengthen, as strong programming helped drive quarterly ratings up three percent across the domestic portfolio and six percent across the flagship brands, with especially sharp rises at several networks:
Strong partnerships lock in subscribers, stabilize ad sales
Viacom has put renewed focus on building stronger partnerships, with positive results in the distribution and ad sales worlds.
After signing an advanced advertising and content distribution agreement with Altice USA earlier this year, Viacom yesterday finalized a renewal of its deal with Charter Communications. Both of these deals transcend traditional carriage arrangements to include data, advertising and co-production components, underscoring Viacom’s focus on finding opportunity in a rapidly changing industry.
Viacom has now locked in agreements with nearly half its subscribers in the past year, with no major renewals looming until well into 2019.
Additionally, the company announced earlier this week that 11 of its networks would headline the new Philo streaming product, a low-cost entertainment package that will also include programming from A+E, AMC, Discovery and Scripps.
Strong partnerships – combined with the aforementioned ratings growth and industry-leading innovation – also helped stabilize ad sales after a decline in the same period last year. International ad revenues were especially strong, jumping 36 percent.
Top talent and intellectual property drives so much more ahead
Viacom’s fiscal 2018 is already well underway, and the company’s reinvention continues to accelerate behind a portfolio of diverse and iconic brands. On the immediate horizon, Viacom looks forward to further growth into next generation platforms with the launch of Viacom Digital Studios behind former Awesomeness TV Chief Digital Officer Kelly Day, an increase in live events led by SpongeBob on Broadway, the launch of Paramount Network in January, the upcoming content partnership with Tyler Perry – who is already scripting a film for BET – and so much more.
To see what Viacom will debut in the months ahead, scroll through the timeline below, or click here to view the full-screen version.
To listen to the earnings call or read the press release or other materials, visit Viacom Investor Relations.