Blog Post

Viacom’s Dauman: People Would Pay For ‘Jersey Shore’ Uncensored On Demand

Did you expect Philippe Dauman to last this long as CEO of Viacom? (NYSE: VIA) More than a few times, I heard variations of “he’s a lawyer, not an entertainment guy.” Translation: He’s no Tom Freston. True, but the man Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone calls his “forever friend” has been an entertainment exec long enough now to make it through the premieres of Iron Man and Iron Man II — and he just got a five-year multimillion-dollar contract extension. We spent a little time catching up at the Viacom booth during The Cable Show in LA, talking about new premium net EpixHD, Hulu, subscriptions for games, Jersey Shore, and more. (Memo to self: try to schedule interviews between, not during, trailers of action films. It got so loud at one point that we had to cross the aisle to the next booth so I could hear the soft-spoken Dauman.)

[Note: I’ve been told that the lead to this post doesn’t read to some the way I intended. I cut it down and in the process, some things got lost in translation. When I wrote it, I was thinking about a series of conversations with fellow journalists and analysts at last year’s Cable Show when variations of that question were asked of me. What I was trying to say here was if you haven’t moved on from that, it’s time. Dauman came on to turn around Viacom and has done that through some very difficult times.]

Here are some excerpts:

On Epix: Slightly more than two years after Viacom, Paramount, Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF) and MGM announced plans for a premium net, EpixHD is “right on plan,” says Dauman. From the outside, it looked like Verizon FiOS might be it while other distribution deals were stuck in the pipeline, but a spate of announcements including Cox, Charter (NSDQ: CHTR) and a national deal with Dish suggest the new multi-platform network is breaking through. That’s due in part to a flexible business model made possible by not being an incumbent. Dauman explains: “Certain distributors have movie tiers they want to drive, some more broadband subscriptions. Some of them will want to offer it as a traditional pay service. We offer great flexibility in how they use it.” The deals are all different. “We try to drive to a certain amount of revenue per subscriber. That can be achieved many different ways — so we may have some guaranteed revenue with upside and we’ll help them drive the upside.”

The service has been rolling out for the last few months. “Obviously, we’re in early stages but we are seeing that Epix subscribers are younger, they love the multi platform, they obviously love HD, and they like the social aspects.” Last weekend, Epix hosted a Black Eyed Peas concert in standard and HD on TV, VOD and The broadband experience included shared viewing by 1,000 at a time in the interactive EPIX Event Theatre. Epix is also building its own slate of originals, with seven shows in development. “Not all of them will work but as we get our full distribution we’ll able to do more. Given who the partners are, we have access to a lot of creators that might not otherwise be available to the middlemen.”

On Hulu: Dauman insists pulling The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report from Hulu “wasn’t a change,” that it was always a short-term deal. “We did it so that we could test the service. It got an inordinate amount of attention when we didn