Ahead of the Bell: Viacom reports 1Q results

NEW YORK (AP) ? Media giant Viacom Inc. shares is reporting its fiscal first-quarter earnings before the market opens. Analysts are looking for an update on ratings weakness at its pay TV kids channel, Nickelodeon.

CEO Philippe Dauman complained in November about an “inexplicable drop” in audience ratings at one of Viacom’s most popular channels, Nickelodeon, since mid-September. He questioned Nielsen’s ratings system and said the company was working to resolve the problem.

At an investor conference in December, Dauman complained that Nielsen was “imperfect” but said “we have to live with it.” Analysts then considered the double-digit percentage audience decline a serious issue.

Evercore Partners analyst Alan Gould said a key driver of the stock will be management’s outlook on future ratings and advertising. Gould is expecting domestic ad revenue to have grown 2 percent, based on higher prices but an 8 percent decline in audience ratings.

Analysts polled by FactSet expect Viacom to earn $1.05 per share in the final three months of 2011 on revenue of $3.99 billion.

In the same quarter a year earlier, Viacom reported adjusted earnings of $1.02 per share on revenue of $3.83 billion.