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Viacom's Dauman Wants Better Digital Measurement

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Viacom (VIA - Get Report) CEO Philippe Dauman said a lot of his company's content on Nickelodeon and MTV isn't getting enough credit from advertisers.

Dauman said that as media measurement services such as Nielsen (NLSN) introduce new technologies better able to measure usage time on big and small mobile devices, Viacom will particularly benefit owing to its concentration of teen and 20-something viewers.

"We have a lot of viewing of our content that is not sufficiency measured," Dauman said in a talk Monday at the UBS Media and Telecommunications Conference. As Nielsen introduces new measurements, those reworked numbers, he said, "will play in our favor."

Viacom shares have gained a gaudy 50% in 2013, not bad for a big media company competing in the newfangled world of digital where "social" Web sites are all the rage and advertisers are stumbling around trying to win the fickle hearts and pliable minds of the under-30 set.

It's always a bit curious to watch the button-down Dauman talk about "Sponge Bob" and "Dora the Explorer," but with suitable confidence the Viacom CEO said both Nickelodeon characters are benefiting from a recent resurgence and are helping to drive Viacom's expansion into all parts of Europe.

"They travel very well and are the fuel for us to expand Nickelodeon around the world," he said. "Sponge Bob" can be shown anywhere, he said "because it's dubbed." Thereby eliminating the need for "Sponge Bob" to speak in his native language, whatever that is. Viacom is planning another "Sponge Bob" movie.

Dauman took over Viacom in September 2006, replacing the popular Tom Freston, who had helped create MTV and the loyalties of the company's creative teams. Yet Viacom's fiery Chairman Sumner Redstone ruled that Freston hadn't been sufficiently aggressive about acquiring digital properties, specifically MySpace, and was all but thrown under the bus.

Of course, Freston's apparent failure to lose to Rupert Murdoch in the MySpace sweepstakes proved to be fortuitous. MySpace was a disaster and News Corp. paid the price. Murdoch later called the $580 million MySpace acquisition in 2005 a "huge mistake." News Corp. sold MySpace to Specific Media and Justin Timberlake for $35 million in June 2011.

Since Dauman took over Viacom, shares have gained 209%. Shares slipping 0.3% on Monday to close at $82.09. 

-- By Leon Lazaroff in New York.

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