Viacom spotlights strong Par slate

Annual shareholders' meeting also touts cablers

Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone opened the company’s annual meeting with a quote by Mark Twain.

“Reports of my absence from this meeting have been greatly exaggerated,” he said Thursday after his waffling on whether or not to attend the Gotham event drew scrutiny from the press and investors late last week.

Redstone, 88, is the chairman of Viacom and CBS and an initial decision not to show ignited speculation as to the state of health. He lives in Beverly Hills but has rarely if ever missed a shareholders’ meeting.

CEO Philippe Dauman did most of the talking, touting the stable of cable nets including MTV, Comedy Central and BET and Paramount’s strong 2012 to about 150 shareholders at Viacom headquarters off Times Square.

He said Nickelodeon, which has been struggling in the ratings, will be launching more than 500 new episodes of original programming including a revamped “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” series later this year that will be paired with a Paramount film at the end of 2013 and a major worldwide consumer products push.

He confirmed Par wants another “Mission Impossible” after the strong perf of “Ghost Protocol,” and was upbeat on the upcoming slate of “Titanic” in 3D, “The Dictator” with Sacha Baron Cohen, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” and a just-announced Katy Perry 3D concert movie for release this summer.

Minus a few feisty old timers who used to liven up these meets by grilling execs on everything from their compensation to physical appearance, the gathering was subdued. One shareholder requested that Paramount cast “hot actor” Timothy Olyfant in something because “he could make us a lot of money.”

“I will pass that on to Brad,” Dauman said, referring to studio head Brad Grey. “By the way, Channing Tatum (in “Retaliation”) is also a really hot actor,” he noted.

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