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Co-prexy pressure cooker

As Freston's fixing Par, Moonves feels the heat

Much has been made of the Herculean task Tom Freston has undertaken in remaking Paramount.

But a bigger burden is on his Viacom co-prexy Leslie Moonves.

In its earnings call Feb. 24, Viacom posted a jolting $18.4 billion loss from write downs at its radio and outdoor ad businesses, both of which fall under Moonves’ mantle.

So, while Freston celebrated that same night with a coming-out party for new Paramount chief Brad Gray, Moonves — who, in addition to Freston, could be in line to succeed Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone — might well have the more difficult challenge.

CBS, which Moonves also oversees, was riding high on Viacom’s earnings report. Cable networks, which report to Freston, were also relative winners. Moonves came from CBS, Freston from MTV.

The duo inherited their additional assignments when they were promoted last summer and split up Viacom’s portfolio between them.

Both say they plan to cure their ailing units with new strategies — mostly more cash for better content and marketing — and new leadership. They sounded pretty confident, at least on the conference call.

“Both Tom and I have run very successful businesses over the past 20 years. We know how to invest wisely in our businesses,” Moonves reassured Wall Street.

Redstone, who sounded significantly more subdued than his two No. 2s, threw down the gauntlet.

“Under the guidance of creative geniuses, we’re building a model of a media company, a more streamlined and powerful company that’s taking advantage of every strength to maximize shareholder returns,” he said.

But only one creative genius can take his job.

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