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Paramount to beef up TV operations

Studio czar seeks to mix pics, television

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said Paramount is in a “very good place creatively” but needs to diversify its revenue stream to defuse the intrinsic volatility of the film business.

The exec, three months into his new gig, wasn’t specific. But he recently said the studio wants to beef up its TV operations, which mostly moved to CBS after the company split.

The studio has “a good mix of products,” he said, with tentpoles plus targeted pics, some built around Viacom’s MTV, Nickelodeon and, soon, BET brands.

And “DreamWorks brings a tremendous creative talent,” he told investors at the CSFB media conference Monday. “I think we are well on our way to remaking the studio … I’d like to see it go back up to the level it was — it was once a business that was making $400 million-$500 million a year.”

He touted “Dreamgirls,” which had its Gotham premiere Monday night, and upcoming Eddie Murphy starrer “Norbit.” “Transformers,” out this summer, could potentially become a franchise for Par, he said.

And he noted the studio is bringing back “Star Trek” in 2008 or 2009. “We’re revitalizing it in a new and interesting way,” he said.

J.J. Abrams, who recently inked a film deal with Par, is set to direct.

In cable, Dauman’s making a big push to burnish MTV’s overseas operation. “We can do a hell of a lot better job making it more profitable internationally. There’s a lot of upside in the long term,” he said. “We planted the flag (but that) doesn’t mean you’re as profitable as you can be.”

He said he’s targeting 10%-15% of margin improvement internationally by the end of next year. “We are putting a plan in place to make it happen. I don’t think there’s any reason we can’t achieve it. And if we don’t achieve it, I think some people will have some problems with me.”

He reiterated his estimate of $500 million in digital revenue in 2007 and said it would come from existing properties, not acquisitions.

Still, Dauman said, “We can do a much better job of monetizing our digital presence.”