“Viacom Is A Story of Turnaround and Evolution” – CEO Bakish Tells CNBC

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish appeared on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street yesterday, joining co-host David Faber from backstage at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference.

“Viacom is a story of turnaround and evolution,” Bakish said, before detailing the company’s progress ramping up its studio production business, expanding its digital presence, improving affiliate relationships and revenue, and adapting Viacom to an increasingly digital landscape.

“My job is to move Viacom forward, turn it around, evolve it, make sure it’s a vibrant company for the future to benefit our shareholders, our employees and all our partners, that’s job one, that’s what we’re doing,” Bakish said.

Here are a few highlights of the conversation:

“Viacom is a story of turnaround and evolution”

“Viacom is a story of turnaround and evolution. And on the turnaround side, we’ve had a lot of progress on distribution, and on the evolution side – which is really where this fits – we’ve announced recently that we’re ramping up our studio production, including on our flagship brands, on MTV and Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, and that’s about getting those brands represented in third-party platforms, so that consumers who might not have a full bundle still has access to these brands, still think of them in their entertainment experience, and by the way, could be promotion to bring people into a bigger bundle.”

Viacom is increasingly Over The Top

“[Philo – which includes Viacom – is] a low price point, entertainment skinny bundle delivered via OTT. … AT&T Watch is essentially that too. There’s no broadcast, there’s no sports in there. It’s all entertainment product. It’s a limited selection, so we think there’s more to come, and in fact in every MVPD cable renewal or extension deal we’ve done in the last year and a half, it includes provision that we’ll be added to any OTT or skinny bundles that they have, so it’s more product to come.”

Delivering an evolution

“From the beginning, back to November of ’16, my focus has, was and continues to be running this company, moving it forward, delivering a turnaround, delivering an evolution. And on the turnaround we’ve got proof points on U.S. distribution, where, by the way, we have sequentially improved our distribution revenue every quarter this fiscal year. We’ll have growth in the fourth quarter, the quarter we’re in right now, and we’ll have growth in 2019. We’ve improved our audience shares. We’ve tremendously turned around Paramount.”

The financial picture improves across Viacom

“We’re focused on putting points on the board. We are. Coming out of the third quarter, I think we started to get some recognition on that. Coming out of our fourth quarter, when we deliver not only sequential improvement in domestic affiliate, but growth in domestic affiliate, I think we’ll get some respect for that. When we talk about the numbers that Paramount’s delivering, I think we’ll get some respect for that. And you don’t know what the catalyst to turn [the stock price is], but we have had a real change in sentiment.”

Viacom evolves into a multi-platform global entertainment company

“The fundamental thing we need to do is shift the narrative. People look at us, and they say, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re a domestic pay TV company,’ and the reality is, that’s wrong. We’re a multi-platform global entertainment company. And that’s why this evolution point, building these new revenue streams, whether it’s studio production, our Advanced Marketing Solutions business, our advanced ad business, which, the strategy is to use that to more than offset any decline on call it the traditional side, that business is growing over thirty percent. You’ll see that business grow, on a percentage basis, accelerate in ’19.”

Earlier in the morning, Bakish also appeared onstage at Communacopia. You can listen to his full question-and-answer session here.