April 21, 2024

In this photo illustration, the Paramount Global logo is displayed on a smartphone screen.

Rafael Henrique | SOPA Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

The company cut its dividend to 5 cents per share from 24 cents a share to “further enhance our ability to deliver long-term value for our shareholders as we move toward streaming profitability,” Chief Executive Officer Bob Bakish said in a statement.

It’s the first time since 2009 that Paramount reduced its dividend. Paramount expects annualized cash savings of $500 million from the dividend cut. Paramount has a net debt leverage ratio of 6.8 times earnings before depreciation, interest, amortization and taxes. That balloons to 8.1 times EBITDA if pension liabilities are included, according to research firm Atlantic Equities.

Paramount Global’s traditional TV revenue, which consists of CBS and its cable networks such as MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, dropped 8% in the quarter to $5.2 billion. The company’s film studio division reported a 6% drop in revenue year-over-year.

Media companies are struggling to replace traditional TV revenue, as customers cancel each quarter, with streaming revenue as they build out direct-to-consumer businesses. Bakish said the company plans to divest non-core assets as it aims to boost free cash flow and stop streaming losses by the end of 2024.

This year will represent peak losses for Paramount Global’s streaming business, Bakish said.

Streaming revenue from Paramount+ and Pluto TV, the company’s free advertising-supported service, rose 39% to $1.5 billion. But direct-to-consumer losses widened to $511 million from $456 million a year ago.

Paramount also took an impairment charges of $1.67 billion in the first quarter from content removed as a result of combining Paramount+ with Showtime into a single U.S. streaming platform.

Here are the quarterly results the company reported, versus analyst estimates, according to Refinitiv:

  • Revenue: $7.27 billion vs. $7.42 billion expected
  • Earnings per share: 9 cents vs. 17 cents expected

Paramount Global is aiming to sell a majority stake in BET later this year. It attempted to divest and merge publishing company Simon & Schuster last year but the deal was blocked by U.S. regulators.

The company has restarted the Simon & Schuster sale process, Bakish said on the earnings call. Paramount hopes to announce a deal to sell the publisher by the end of the year, Chief Financial Officer Naveen Chopra said on the call.

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