On Viacom’s Feb. 9 earnings call, CEO Philippe Dauman, who recently added the chairman’s title, defended his efforts to get the company rocking again against a chorus of detractors who voices get louder as Viacom’s stock price sinks lower.
“Our outlook and the facts have been distorted and obscured by the naysayers, self-interested critics and publicity-seekers,” Dauman said. “We will not be distracted or deterred as we build for the bright future ahead of us. As executive chairman and CEO, I will continue to work tirelessly to secure that future and will leave no stone unturned tactically or strategically.”
Analyst Tom Eagan of Telsey Group, said the 21% plunge in Viacom’s stock after the earnings announcement was “excessive” because “fundamentally, the thesis of a turn-round appears to be in place.”
While acknowledging that 2015 had been “a challenging year,” Dauman on the call said, Viacom’s “creative culture is stronger than ever” and that Nickelodeon, VH1 and TV Land were turning around. MTV and Comedy Central still have “some work to do.”
Dauman said Viacom would build value for the long term with “consistency in leadership” and “consistency in purpose.”
He was asked why, given the company’s poor performance in the last two years, he was the board’s choice to be chairman.
“They know me, they know that our plans are strategic plans, they know our operational plans, they endorse them, they have confidence and I will repay that confidence by producing the results without shirking our obligation to make the changes that are necessary to make Viacom the leading content company of the future,” he said.
He said there was “noise” surrounding the company, but that some investors were ignoring it and buying the stock. Asked what noise he was referring to, Dauman shot back, “Well, if you haven’t been listening, you don’t know what the noise is. I think it’s obvious to everybody what the noise is.”
After the call some analysts gave Dauman & Co. poor reviews.
“Unfortunately, the conference call had an even greater defensive tone than normal and the lack of detail was somewhat uncharacteristic, which to us means things are just bad,” said Marci Ryvicker of Wells Fargo.