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Viacom CEO: Mobile is 'next great growth leg for our business'

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Viacom CEO: Mobile is 'next great growth leg for our business'

Having set the stage with a number of affiliate deals over the past year, Viacom Inc. CEO Bob Bakish believes the company is well positioned to forge more productive deals during its next round of distribution negotiations.

Bakish told investors at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York on Dec. 5 that the content company in its fiscal 2017 did "significant work on the distribution side, including renewing or extending half of our [subscriber] base."

Those deals include multifaceted agreements with Altice USA Inc., which continues to restore Viacom networks to its systems following a lengthy absence, and Charter Communications Inc. He noted that Charter, due to some hefty acquisitions, is a much larger operator now than when Viacom inked its previous deal with the cable operator. As such, Viacom negotiated a "more appropriate rate."

Bakish maintained that the work conducted on the affiliate front this year, as well as strides being made by its strategy of concentrating more resources on certain flagship networks, will serve Viacom well during its next round of affiliate negotiations.

"We don't have any major distribution deal up until well into 2019, and that will give us additional runway to show the value of our flagship strategy," said Bakish, who added that he was with one of the largest MSOs in the nation late last week. Although their affiliate deal is not coming due, he said the company liked Viacom's flagship strategy and "talked about doing more with them."

He also discussed doing more in the mobile space. Pointing to deals with mobile operators in Asia, Bakish averred that the "next great growth leg for our business is the adoption of media products on mobile devices."

Turning to film, Bakish said Paramount Studio's 2019 film slate will include branded network theatricals from some flagship network properties such as BET (US), which has forged partnerships with talent like Tyler Perry.

Asked about the current M&A environment, Bakish said the management team is focused on its own assets and organic execution at the moment.

"We will look at small opportunities that we can tuck in," he said. "We'll look at that in the advanced next-generation platforms and solutions, but they are ... smaller acquisitions. Our overwhelming focus is on organic execution."