Viacom CEO Bob Bakish sat down with Morgan Stanley media analyst Ben Swinburne at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference last week. On a San Francisco stage in front of hundreds of members of the investment community, Bakish outlined how various growth initiatives in the international, mobile, direct-to-consumer, short-form video and live event spaces will complement Viacom’s existing business lines.
“So, if you think of 2017 really as a period of stabilization, revitalization in the company, as we look forward and we’re already hard at work at this and putting points on the board, 2018 is really more about reinvention and driving the company forward as a growth company in the future,” Bakish said.
Here are a few highlights from Bakish’s talk with Swinburne. Listen to the full conversation here.
Viacom’s future is mobile
“And then the thing that’s really exciting really longer term, but not much longer term is the mobile space, and that’s the incremental category that will invert the whole argument. In the last quarter, we did a first of its kind deal with Telefónica in Latin America where we licensed all of our flagship brands that are in Latin America to their Movistar Play, the first-of-its-kind deal for them too, so that those services will be available to all their mobile television subscribers. … We’re also in a very interesting conversation in the U.S. right now about bringing our brands to mobile and I believe that will happen in fiscal 2018 as well. And if you can think about all the time spent on mobile and all those devices out there, I think you quickly realize what a powerful growth engine that will be for our business.”
Viacom’s content library is coming directly to consumers
“… later in the year, you’ll hear about the products we’re going to launch that leverages those assets … which we’re going to implement on direct-to-consumer basis in a differentiated way that we believe leverages not only our library assets, but also our ad sales capabilities and its complementary to what we’re doing in MVPD [Multichannel Video Program Distributors] space.”
Viacom’s growth initiatives could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in near-term value
“… we’re actively growing our participation in … the digital-native side, the Consumer Products side and the live events side, think of those as three different tracks, all complementary to the brand and to our financials. We think that is hundreds of millions of dollars of near-term value.”
Every flagship brand will have a live U.S. event
“Again, the events space in this fiscal year, every flagship brand [Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Paramount Network], will have an events in the U.S. That is something that was not true before. So, that’s Nickelodeon, that’s Comedy Central … So, that’s an important incremental activity and one that consumers and advertisers and for that matter, talent, like.”
Viacom’s relationship with distributors continues to improve
“We’ve got this Advanced Ad product we can bring to the table to increase the value of some of your local avails, and we really did turn a new page,” Bakish said of settling on a deal to return Viacom to Altice. “So, we’re sitting here today in a much better place vis-à-vis distribution. We don’t have any large near-term – any large MVPD deal up in fiscal 2018. And by the way, we’ve been improving our product. … I think people are starting to understand that it’s differentiated and that it is valuable. … And you put those things together both in the U.S. and certainly globally, that will be a growth platform.”
International continues to grow rapidly
“[Viacom International Media Networks] is a business that in the last quarter grew ad sales, affiliate sales, ancillary sales, double-digits. It’s a business that grew the bottom line strong double-digits. And it’s not weighted to any one particular thing, it’s driven by our, let’s call it global or in this case ex-U.S. portfolio of brands, MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network and it’s driven by our local cornerstones, which include Channel 5 in the UK, which is an acquisition we did a couple of years ago, which transformed our business there. … That includes our other local cornerstone which we acquired. Last thing I did in International, Telefe, which is the number one broadcaster in Argentina, which is a story in its own way, which maybe we will come back to, but that’s an incredible asset and really makes us – positions us to be a major player in Spanish language content which we have not historically been, but we are quickly becoming. And so, the combination of those global brands and the local cornerstones is what’s driving the growth.”