clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Jon Stewart Is Done. Viacom Investors Aren't Sticking Around to See What Happens Next.

Wall Street worries about all of the TV companies -- but it's really worried about the people who (used to?) bring you Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central.

Comedy Central
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Yesterday Wall Street hammered all of the big TV stocks. This morning it’s not sure how it feels about them, so the share prices of most big media companies are bouncing around.

One notable exception: Viacom. After falling 7 percent yesterday, the cable programmer’s stock is down another 10 percent this morning.

The ostensible reason is that Viacom posted underwhelming earnings results this morning — revenue came in under expectations, and its ad revenue was down 9 percent, also worse than Wall Street expected. (AMC Networks, which also reported this morning, is also getting crushed.)

The bigger reason is that if you want to be bearish about the state of the TV Industrial Complex, Viacom is your best argument: The entire premise of the company is that it delivers pay TV programming that young people want to see. And whether you want to chalk it up to cord-cutting or cord-nevering, young people are vanishing from the pay TV world.

To put a finer point on it: Remember when kids watched Nickelodeon and teenagers watched MTV? Now they’re parked in front of Netflix and YouTube instead. Oh — and all of Jon Stewart’s fans are out of luck after his last show, tonight. How is Viacom ever going to get them back?

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman spent this morning’s earnings call promising that his company was moving with increased urgency — “accelerating is a word we use a lot here at Viacom.”

And, as he has for a while, Dauman argued that his networks’ ratings declines are overstated, because people are watching his shows on digital platforms and other places where Nielsen can’t find them. Dauman also talked up the notion that Viacom does fine with new shows it makes for itself — the problem, he says, is when it shows old repeats, which Viacom has already said aren’t worth much these days.

Investors aren’t buying it. And they haven’t been buying Viacom for some time: Last September Viacom’s B shares were trading at $80; now they’re around $46.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.