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Surge sweet music to Viacom

Fueled by the double-digit operating growth of its MTV Networks and strong performances by other units, Viacom Inc. was able to post second quarter net earnings of $ 41.6 million, or 35 cents per share, up from the year earlier period’s net loss of $ 14.8 million, or 12 cents per share.

For the first half of the year, net earnings totalled $ 1.02 per share vs. a net loss of 6 cents per share for the same period in the previous year.

Revenues for the quarter increased 10% to $ 496 million from $ 451 million in the year earlier period. Earnings from operations swelled 11% to $ 107 million from $ 97 million the year before (both comparisons exclude 1992 results of the Milwaukee cable system sold by Viacom to Time Warner Jan. 1).

MTV engine

As has been the case in past quarters, MTV continues to be the main engine driving the company. For the quarter ended June 30, the networks segment, which includes MTV Networks and Showtime Networks Inc., reported earnings from operations of $ 65 million, up 24% from the prior year. Networks revenues increased 19% to $ 305 million.

At MTV, both advertising sales and affiliate sales continued to increase, driving revenues 31% higher than last year. MTV earnings from operations increased 46% due to the revenue gains.

Beats estimates

Analyst David Londoner of Wertheim Schroder, said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the results which came in above most Wall Street estimates.

Showtime Networks revenues increased 8% over the second quarter of 1992, including Viacom Pictures for each period. Showtime Networks reported earnings from operations of $ 8 million, down $ 5 million from the second quarter of 1992 . The company said the downturn was primarily due to the timing of expenses for original programming incurred by Viacom Pictures and marketing campaign efforts to build Showtime Networks’ subscriber base.

Showtime Nets served approximately 11.2 million subscribers (including to Flix, which launched in August 1992) at June 30, 1993 vs. approximately 10.3 million subscribers June 30, 1992.

Franchise strength

“The strength of Viacom’s franchises is quite evident in this remarkable earnings performance,” Frank Biondi Jr., prexy and CEO, said in a release. “Our recent ventures with AT&T, Sony, Fox, BSkyB and others, along with other anticipated ventures and our acquisition of ICOM Simulations, are about to enhance Viacom’s ability to exploit these franchises even more dramatically.”

On a comparable basis (excluding the Milwaukee cable system that was sold effective Jan. 1), cable television earnings from operations and revenues increased 11% and 10%, respectively, over the second quarter of last year due to basic customer growth and increased basic and premium rates.

Cable television segment earnings from operations increased 7% to $ 33 million, while revenues grew 5% to $ 107 million (despite the sale of the Milwaukee cable system).

The company said the cable TV segment, which operates systems in California, Oregon, Washington, Ohio and Tennessee, added 26,000 basic subscribers (+3%) over the past year and now serves almost 1.1 million basic customers. Premium customers, however, decreased 5% (or 40% subscribers) to 712,000.

Broadcasting boom

The company’s broadcasting segment, which includes radio and television operations, reported earnings from operations of $ 14 million for the second quarter, an increase of 26% from the year earlier period. Revenues increased 8% to $ 48 million, reflecting higher advertising sales.

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