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Viacom Shares Hit All-Time High After Analysts Cite Improved Ratings Trends

DAVID LIEBERMAN, Executive Editor
April 8, 2013
Viacom’s Toughest Critic Upgrades Stock But Warns Of “Storm Clouds”
Viacom’s Toughest Critic Upgrades Stock But Warns Of “Storm Clouds”

Here’s more proof that Wall Street has freed Viacom from the penalty box following last year’s steep ratings declines at Nickelodeon and MTV. The stock’s up 2.5% in late morning trading — and touched a record $65.25 — after Nomura Equity Research’s Michael Nathanson and RBC Capital Markets’ David Bank said that trends are improving for the entertainment giant. Nickelodeon’s ratings rose 1% in Q1 and with new shows including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles establishing themselves “we expect that the ratings momentum at Nick should continue,” Nathanson says. That could pay off if, as the analyst expects, studios boost spending to promote new movies later this year. If that happens and Nick’s ratings continue to improve then it “can likely take back some [advertising] market share from Cartoon Network,” he says. Bank’s upbeat case for Viacom goes beyond Nickelodeon. He says that ratings momentum “accelerated in roughly half of Viacom’s ad revenue portfolio” including Nick At Nite, BET, and Comedy Central. What’s more, he says MTV should look a lot better when year-over-year comparisons no longer include Jersey Shore, which ended its run late last year. He’s not concerned about the suspension of filming at Buckwild after Shain Gandee died of carbon monoxide poisoning. If the show is cancelled, Bank says he believes that “a spinoff with other core characters would be produced.” All in all, “the outcome shouldn’t materially impact [Viacom's] longer-term results” although Bank says he’ll be listening to hear what CEO Philippe Dauman says on May 1 after the company reports earnings for its fiscal Q2.

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