Viacom Earnings Top Views as Nickelodeon Ratings Rebound

Viacom Inc., the media company controlled by billionaire Sumner Redstone, reported a 16 percent rise in net income, topping estimates as sales rose at cable-television networks such as Nickelodeon.

Net income jumped to $547 million, or $1.20 a share, in the fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 31, the company said today in a statement. That topped the $1.16 a share average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales at the New York-based company fell 3.5 percent to $3.2 billion, including a 30 percent drop at the film unit.

Viacom, owner of MTV, Comedy Central and the Black Entertainment Television networks, relies on its TV business for more than 90 percent of operating income. After struggling early last year as viewership declined, the cable networks posted higher ratings in the September quarter and increased fees from pay-TV operators carrying its channels.

Analysts had predicted $3.29 billion in sales. At Viacom’s TV networks, revenue increased 6.1 percent, while operating profit surged 8 percent to $1.1 billion.

In filmed entertainment, sales declined to $681 million, while the operating loss narrowed. Theatrical releases in the quarter included “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which has been nominated for a best picture Academy Award.

The company, which bought back $1.1 billion of stock in the first quarter, plans to repurchase $850 million more this period, Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman said on a conference call.

Viacom Class B shares rose 3.8 percent to $84.01 at the close in New York. The stock advanced 66 percent in 2013.

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