Brad Pitt helps boost Viacom quarterly profit by 24%

Media company Viacom Inc.'s profit soared 24% in its fiscal fourth quarter, fueled by significantly higher TV ad sales and the Brad Pitt movie "World War Z."

Viacom shattered analysts' estimates for the quarter. Television advertising sales jumped 10% to $1.3 billion, thanks to higher ratings for the company's flagship networks Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central.

For the quarter ended Sept. 30, Viacom reported net income of $804 million, or $1.68 per share, up from $650 million, or $1.26 per share, in the year-earlier period.  Analysts had been expecting earnings of $1.44 a share.

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Revenue jumped 9% to $3.65 billion.

The company's Paramount Pictures was a star, generating 11% higher revenue to $1.2 billion. Adjusted operating income was up 49% to $291 million.

The Los Angeles film studio's theatrical revenue jumped 31% to $171 million for the quarter because of higher home-entertainment sales and the strong box-office performance of "World War Z," which was released in late June. 

"World War Z" was Paramount's second-highest earner for the year, reaping more than $200 million in domestic ticket sales. Worldwide, the film has raked in nearly half a billion dollars.

"We feel that we are going to have a very solid year at Paramount," Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman told analysts Thursday during an early-morning conference call.

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Dauman also noted that the studio's recent comedy, "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa," was on its way to making $100 million at the box office.

"We are very excited about Paramount's 2014 slate," Dauman said.

The studio's home-entertainment revenue increased 24% to $428 million. However, TV licensing revenue decreased 17% to $383 million.

Once again, Viacom's real strength came from its cable television networks.

Revenue at the TV unit was up 7% to nearly $2.5 billion.  Operating income increased 2% to $944 million.  The growth was across the board, not just at one individual network.

"The big surprise here was the acceleration of domestic and international network advertising to 10%," Wells Fargo Securities media analyst Marci Ryvicker observed in a Thursday morning report.

Viacom announced this week that it would pay a quarterly cash dividend of 30 cents a share on its Class A and Class B common stock. The company is controlled by billionaire Sumner Redstone.


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Twitter: @MegJamesLAT


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