Viacom earnings fall on weaker film results

/ Source: The Associated Press

The newly formed Viacom Inc., owner of MTV, VH1 and Nickelodeon, reported lower fourth-quarter earnings Wednesday due mainly to charges and weak results at its Paramount movie studio.

It was the first time Viacom reported earnings as a separate company following its breakup from CBS Corp. at the beginning of the year. Viacom calculated its results as if it had been a separate entity for the fourth quarter.

On that basis, Viacom earned $220 million, or 29 cents per share, down from $378 million or 45 cents per share in the fourth quarter of 2004.

Excluding several one-time charges as well as a tax benefit, the earnings came in at $282 million or 37 cents per share, down from $355 million or 42 cents per share in the comparable period a year ago.

Revenue rose 9 percent to $2.72 billion from $2.50 billion.

The company’s entertainment division, largely the Paramount studio, swung to a loss of $94 million on a 5 percent decline in revenues, which included a 42 percent plunge in worldwide theatrical revenues.

The quarter’s movie slate, which included “Yours, Mine and Ours” and “Elizabethtown,” didn’t do as well as the slate in the same period a year ago, which had “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” and “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie,” the company said.

Paramount also recorded $54 million in charges related to severance and the write-down of abandoned projects as well as other write-downs related to movies released in the first quarter.

Earnings from cable networks, a consistently profitable area for Viacom, rose 15 percent on a 16 percent increase in revenues, which the company attributed to advertising gains at its Nickelodeon, Spike and VH1 channels.