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Viacom Q2 Adjusted Earnings Beat Estimates, Falling Less Than Feared

A drop in TV advertising revenue is offset by a theatrical increase and a boon from licensing content online

Viacom’s financials continued to slip in its latest quarterly report Thursday, but strength from movies like “The Big Short” and a boost from licensing to online video services helped the company’s bottom line from falling as far as Wall Street expected.

In the latest period ended March 31, Viacom reported a profit of $303 million, or 76 cents a share, swinging from loss of $53 million, or 13 cents a share, a year earlier due to unusual restructuring and programming charges. Excluding them, adjusted profit slid 29 percent, while revenue declined 3 percent to $3.078 billion.

But earnings per share, at 76 cents, beat the consensus analyst estimate for 74, and revenue’s 3 percent decline was better than expectations too.

“We are responding to industry consumption shifts with innovative, thoughtful, and long-term strategic solutions and are generating meaningful results in many important areas, including content creation, data-based audience measurement and distribution innovation,” CEO and chairmanPhilippe Dauman said in a statement. “There is much more work to be done, but we see the path to growth ahead and are very optimistic about our future.”

Viacom, which operates channels like Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and MTC as well as movie studio Paramount, has been among the most challenged media companies as investors question the future prognosis for pay-TV bundles while audiences migrate to online video. Recent box office bombs like “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” and “Zoolander 2” have undermined the prospects of the company’s movie studio; Viacom is in the process of selling a minority stake in Paramount by the end of June.

But Tuesday, Viacom reported that its filmed entertainment division kept a steady keel in the latest period, with revenue dropping only 1 percent. Worldwide theatrical revenues grew 6 percent to $217 million, reflecting sales from films like “Daddy’s Home” and “The Big Short” in home entertainment, and its intake from licensing fees jumped 17 percent to $240 million thanks to payments from subscription video-on-demand services.

Viacom’s television division saw a 3 percent drop in revenue. Domestic advertising revenues slid 5 percent because of weaker ratings. The company said payments from U.S. pay-TV providers fell 2 percent as number of subscribers slipped and it lowered rates with a major distributor. But international ad sales and affiliate fees both would have risen if not for a foreign-exchange headwind.

Shares were inactive pre-market. The stock has sunk 39 percent in the last year.