By Jessica Toonkel and Rishika Sadam
Image Attribute: A sign hangs in the offices of Viacom in Times Square on August 6, 2015, in New York City/(Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Feb 9 (Reuters) - Viacom Inc, the owner of MTV, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon, presented a plan on Thursday to turn around its business, focusing on six of its brands amid a continued decline in U.S. ad sales.
The company is giving top priority to its BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and Nick Jr channels and its Paramount film studio, it said in its quarterly earnings release. Viacom will reorganize other brands to support those six.
This is the first major move by new Chief Executive Officer Bob Bakish. The former head of Viacom's international business took over as permanent CEO in December after the Redstone family stopped exploring a merger of Viacom and CBS.
Sumner Redstone and his family own a controlling stake in Viacom and CBS through privately held movie theater company, National Amusements Inc.
Bakish is focused on turning around the business after years of falling domestic ad revenues and poor ratings as younger viewers increasingly watch content online, while Paramount has suffered from a lack of box-office hits.
His efforts come after a year of distractions for the company as the Redstones battled to maintain control, resulting in the departure of former CEO Philippe Dauman.
On Thursday, Viacom announced higher-than-expected earnings and revenue for the first quarter ended on Dec. 31, but U.S. ad sales fell 3 percent, in line with industry expectations.
The company said it would begin co-branding releases between its Paramount studio and some of its networks. For example, Nickelodeon and Paramount will do four films together.
Viacom will rename its Spike network "The Paramount Network" in 2018. Revenue from Viacom's film business increased 24 percent to $758 million in the quarter from a year earlier. Analysts had expected $678.8 million, according to market research firm FactSet StreetAccount.
The media networks business reported a 1 percent rise in revenue to $2.59 billion. Analysts had expected $2.54 billion, according to FactSet StreetAccount. However, net income attributable to Viacom fell to $396 million, or $1 per share, from $449 million, or $1.13 per share, a year earlier.
Excluding special items, the company earned $1.04 per share, beating the analysts' average estimate of 84 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Revenue rose 5.39 percent to $3.32 billion. Analysts had expected $3.18 billion.
(Reporting by Jessica Toonkel in New York and Rishika Sadam in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)
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