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Viacom Chief Philippe Dauman Downplays Volatility of Media Stock

LONDON — Philippe Dauman, president and CEO of Viacom, downplayed concerns over the company’s stock price Wednesday at a conference for senior broadcasting executives in the U.K.

“You have to look through… People start awfulizing very easily, and they extrapolate trends as occurring very rapidly. They assume that content companies that have been in business a very long time and have adapted over a very long time are not going to adapt. So there are a lot of assumption built in,” he told delegates at the Royal Television Society annual conference in Cambridge, England.

“There’s been a lot of volatility. In the middle of the summer there was a big drop. We went to a low. As of right now, we are up 25% from where we were in the third week of August,” he said. “So we went down a lot. We are still quite down for the year but we look through that.”

Dauman underscored that the fundamentals of the business had not changed. “The important thing for us is to focus on what we do best,” he said. “We make great content, figure it how to distribute it, in new ways, in new geographies.”

Dauman emphasized the importance of international markets, with a focus on the U.K., where Viacom bought free-to-air broadcaster Channel 5 a year ago, India and Africa. “We are building an enormous international business, where we have scale here in the U.K. – it is a launching pad to build scale elsewhere,” he said. “We have scale in the best emerging market for media right now, India, and we are also distributing some those networks in other countries and we are looking ahead. We are not just looking at next year. Africa for example is one where we are talking about a decade from now what will be a very rich and lucrative media market. And we are making money there now but that growth rate is going to be very high – it’ll be a significant number. So there are things that fade away, and other things that become important opportunities for the future.”

Dauman said that the “smart” investors would recognize the opportunities. “We thing that the stock market doesn’t always see how you’re going to end up in the long term, and the very short term sometimes. But the ‘smart’ investors, those who bought three weeks ago, are feeling pretty smart already. So old investors go out and new ones come in and they make money.”

Dauman cautioned against doomsayers who heralded the end of television. “What makes television ‘television’ — that is the content – is here to stay. Let’s not confuse medium with message. Whatever the screen, people are watching more video content – a lot more — than ever. However, it is undeniable that the media industry in the U.S. and around the world is in a period of transition,” he said.

“The trend is clear – the revenue models that are being challenged in the U.S. will also come under increasing pressure here as the digital revolution continues to transform viewing habits,” he said. “It is also clear that the way forward is inevitably up. Audiences the world over are hungry for the high-quality content we all produce.”

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