Snooki helps make MTV's Viacom an investor darling

Fri Aug 27, 2010 5:35pm EDT
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By Jennifer Saba

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Viacom's Philippe Dauman, a cultured media chief who scored perfect results on his college entrance exam and entered Yale at 16, happens to be an ardent fan of sensational TV shows.

Name a hit from Viacom's MTV network -- whether "Jersey Shore," which stars a crew of hard-partying Italian-Americans, or "16 and Pregnant" featuring teen mothers -- he catches them all.

"I love our shows," Viacom Chief Executive Dauman said.

It's no surprise really. Once a corporate troublespot, MTV has been put through a programing overhaul over the last year, and has won back audiences and advertisers in the process. Ratings this summer are up about 20 percent from a year ago.

"A lot of people were writing it off," Dauman, 56, said in an interview. "They were wrong."

Indeed, stubbornly low ratings at MTV had proven a cause for concern, depressing results from a cable business that includes Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, among others. Viacom counts on cable for about two-thirds of its sales.

But last quarter revenue from Viacom's cable division rose 6 percent and the company is suddenly one of the hottest investments in the media industry.

Shares of Viacom are up around 5 percent year-to-date, besting peers Time Warner Inc, Walt Disney and News Corp. Viacom's stock far outperformed the Standard & Poor's 500 Index, which has declined about 5 percent during the same period.   Continued...