Ever since Sumner Redstone tossed former CEO Tom Freston out on his ear for not buying MySpace, Viacom (VIA) has been playing catch-up on the Web. But Viacom’s efforts, marked by a flurry of acquisitions and even more press releases, haven’t amounted to much.
In fact, unique visitors to Viacom’s U.S. unique visitors to Viacom sites actually decreased from August 2007 through February of this year according to comScore. Viacom finally recovered in March, reaching 44.8 million unique U.S. visitors 00 about the same amount it had seven months ago. Much of that boost came from a big showing from Nickelodeon Kids & Family, which had its best month ever in March — thanks to 3.3 million unique visitors to iCarly.com, a site that didn’t exist until last fall.
Unlike Time Warner (TWX) or News Corp. (NWS), Viacom has no single mammoth property to drive views; instead, it is trying a mix of individual Viacom shows (like iCarly), online gaming and virtual worlds. As CEO Phillippe Daumann likes to say, it’s Viacom’s 300-site strategy.
So where’s the growth? When Daumann took over as CEO in Sept. 2006, Viacom was in the midst of an acquisitions spree, which added Atom Entertainment, iFilm, Quizilla, Neopets, Addicting Games, Xfire, and College Publishers Network, among others. Since September 2006, total Web traffic to Viacom sites is up 27.6%, which handily outpaced total internet growth over the same period (8%), and Yahoo (8%), but trailed Time Warner (37%) and CBS (37%).
Viacom’s March unqiues were up a decent 12% from a year ago. But take a look at the comScore graph below: If investors are looking for a burst of Web growth from the cable TV conglomerate, they’re going to have to hope Philippe and co have something up their sleeve.
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