Viacom eyes ME outdoor move

Sumner Redstone, chairman and CEO of media conglomerate Viacom, said its outdoor advertising division Viacom Outdoor may enter the Middle East market.

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By  Tim Addington Published  December 18, 2005

Sumner Redstone, chairman and CEO of media conglomerate Viacom, said its outdoor advertising division Viacom Outdoor may enter the Middle East market. Talking to Campaign, the multi-billionaire tycoon also said that plans to launch a MTV channel for the Middle East were “still on the table”. Redstone, who was ranked by Forbes magazine as America’s 20th richest man with an estimated wealth of US$8.1 billion in 2004, was in Dubai last week to attend the film festival, which Showtime — a joint venture between Viacom and Kuwait investment firm Kipco — is a sponsor of. As well as a stake in the Middle East pay TV provider, Viacom owns some of the world’s best known entertainment companies, including CBS Television, MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures and now Dreamworks, following a deal that was announced during Redstone’s visit to the emirate. Talking about establishing Viacom Outdoor in the Middle East, Redstone said: “Outdoor is a possibility. We looked at it once, we didn’t like it then, but I think we are going to take a new look.” Viacom Outdoor saw revenues hit US$429 million in the first quarter of this year, and in September it took a 70% controlling stake in Magic Media, a Chinese outdoor company that has the rights to advertise on Beijing’s bus system. “We had some people here [the Middle East] originally, but that was several years ago to look at it. We have just made a deal in China….so I think it is a possibility here.” Asked if MTV would ever establish a dedicated station for the Middle East, Redstone said: “That is still on the table. It is a possibility.” He added: “Showtime caters for young affluent audiences here, exactly the same audience as MTV.” Viacom will shortly be split into two publicly traded companies under the MTV and CBS umbrellas. Explaining the reasons behind the move, Redstone said: “Viacom is going to get bigger although it is going to be in two companies. Larger is no longer in charge. We believe that the two companies split off would be better. “During the years of CBS, MTV subscribers went from 400,000 to a billion. “CBS kept coming in as number one and none of this was reflected in our stock, which led me to believe that the age of the conglomerate was over.”

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