Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman would have preferred to keep the focus squarely on the media giant’s robust third-quarter profits.
But in an earnings call on Friday morning the subject of an impending rift with DreamWorks Animation kept coming up.
Pressed by analysts, Dauman admitted that Viacom’s film division, Paramount Pictures, was preparing for life after DWA.
“We are proceeding under the assumption that we will not be extending the DreamWorks Animation deal beyond next year," Dauman said.
Paramount has been distributing the animation house’s hit films since 2006, but its current pact is due up at the end of next year.
Moreover, it’s an open secret in Hollywood that DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg has become increasingly unhappy in his distribution pact with Paramount. That disenchantment, coupled with Paramount’s refusal to sweeten terms, led the DWA to reject a year-long extension on the arrangement earlier in the week.
But Dauman had only nice things to say about Katzenberg and DWA, insisting he had a “very good, strong relationship” with the animation chief.
“Paramount will do just fine under any scenario, and DreamWorks Animation will do just fine under any scenario,” he added.
For Paramount, that scenario will be its own animation division. The studio announced that it was getting into the cartoon game last July, further fueling speculation that DreamWorks Animation was moving toward the exit door.