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EARNINGS: VIACOM SEES BLACK, SIRIUS SOME EXTRA RED
Conglom Profits as Satellite Sterncaster Readies to Receive Howard, Predicts More Subscribers
Thanks mainly to its cable networks, Viacom made a $708.5 million net profit in the third quarter ending Sept. 30. The profit puts Viacom back in black compared to year-earlier figures, when a $1.5 billion write-down related to the company separating from Blockbuster dragged it down to a $487.6 million loss.

Revenue for the quarter climbed 10% to $5.94 billion, up from $5.38 billion. Earnings per share were 45 cents, up from a loss of 28 cents per share in the year-earlier quarter.

Cable networks contributed strongly to third-quarter figures, boasting a 17% gain in ad revenue. The MTV Networks-led division reported an 11% increase in operating income to $682 million on a 15% increase in revenue.

Movies and entertainment, headed by Paramount, saw an even greater gain, with revenue leaping by 54% and net income climbing to $109.7 million from just $5.1 million a year ago, thanks to hits including War of the Worlds.

Television showed an operating income dip of 19% and a 2% decline in revenue for the quarter, but mainly because year-earlier figures were buoyed by CSI syndication revenue.

Even Viacom’s radio unit, Infinity Broadcasting, showed a 1% increase in profit on a 2% gain in revenue. The gains come at a good time, as Infinity braces for morning drive life without Howard Stern and with David Lee Roth, Adam Carolla and others (see story), as Stern prepares for his debut on Sirius Satellite Radio.

Viacom’s move to split into two companies, one led by cable and movies and the other with broadcast TV and radio, apparently remains on track, with the conglom taking a $17 million one-time charge related to advancing its plan.

Speaking of Sirius, though, the satellite broadcaster reported a wider loss but increased its forecast for subscriber growth with its third-quarter numbers. The gaping red maw opened slightly to $180.5 million, or 14 cents a share, from a loss of $169.4 million, or 14 cents a share, beating analyst expectations by two cents.

Revenue for the quarter nearly tripled, to $66.8 million from $19.1 million a year ago, as Sirius increased subscribers by 359,294. The company now has about 2.2 million signed up and now expects to have well over 3 million by the end of the year, as the holidays combine with Stern’s imminent arrival to drive customers to the service.
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