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Two themes as Viacom (NYSE: VIA) execs pick up from the Beatles soundtrack playing while listeners waited for the Q3 call to start: Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone’s effort to assuage concerns about the future of Viacom and CBS (NYSE: CBS) despite issues facing his holdings in National Amusement and Redstone and CEO Phillipe Dauman’s emphasis on Viacom’s ability to ride out the unfortunate economic environment. Redstone, almost inaudible at times, insisted that the circumstances that led to the surprising sale of stock in both media companies were unprecedented, extraordinary and would not be repeated: “National does not intend to sell one more share of stock in Viacom or CBS.”
Dauman acknowledged advertising and ratings problems, then gave a shout out to Rock Band for being the bright spot. He called last week’s announcement of an agreement with Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) Corp “a competitive coup” and offered the Beatles’ addition to Rock Band as an example of spreading the brand “to many new revenue-creating opportunities. ”
More on ads, layoffs and other news after the jump…
— Advertising: Dauman: “The advertising market has clearly changed.” That means another advertising re-org, this time with ad sales leaders reporting directly to heads of networks. Dauman calls it “adapting.” He didn’t mention how it might slim the ranks.
— Rock Band: Ancillary fees for the media Networks division are anchored by Rock Band, which has shipped 7-plus million units, delivered 26 million downloads and will have a 500-plus song library by the end of 2008. The second edition of the game is getting the full Viacom treatment. Dauman: “We are bringing the full power of all Viacom assets to drive awareness and sales of this revolutionary game and intend to expand the brand to many new revenue-generating opportunities.”
— Layoffs: So far, no mention of the rumored layoffs at MTVN. I’ve been told not to expect any tomorrow despite reports elsewhere. Doesn’t mean cuts aren’t coming.
Dauman ended his prepared remarks with the requisite mention of optimism, stressing the company’s multiple revenue streams.
From Q&A: A smart move from Dauman — refusing to give guidance beyond this year given the uncertain times.