Viacom CEO: no "splashy" purchase in sight

NEW YORK Mon May 14, 2007 4:26pm EDT

Viacom Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman speaks at the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in New York May 14, 2007. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

Viacom Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman speaks at the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in New York May 14, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Keith Bedford

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Viacom Inc. VIAb.N sees no big acquisitions as it builds its digital businesses, Chief Executive Philippe Dauman said on Monday, even as deal-making frenzy sweeps across the media and Internet industries.

Dauman, whose company broadcasts Comedy Central's "Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and owns the MTV Networks, talked broadly about its build, not buy strategy at the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in New York.

"You have certain companies who feel a certain desperation perhaps to solve problems by making splashy acquisitions," Dauman said. "We're not one of those companies."

Although Viacom appears to have taken itself out of the running for several highly sought-after Internet properties, including Facebook, the company run by Sumner Redstone has made smaller purchases that fit well with existing businesses.

"Even some of the smaller companies out there, we see overly ambitious expectations out there on the price of sellers," he said, when asked about Viacom's interest in social networks such as Facebook, which turned down a $1 billion offer from Yahoo Inc. (YHOO.O), according to media reports.

Viacom agreed to buy video game company Harmonix Music Systems Inc., maker of the popular music-related games "Guitar Hero" series and the upcoming "Rock Band", which some analysts see as a possible online games counterpart to the MTV cable networks.

INTERNAL GROWTH

Deal making has taken a backseat to internal development at the company, which split from its broadcast sibling CBS Corp. (CBS.N) last year.

"I do not see for us this year as being a year of consolidation," Dauman said.

The company earlier said it planned to work with startup technology and media companies that could fit well with its strategy to create programming on all digital devices -- cell phones, personal computers and television.

Taking a page out of Silicon Valley technology companies' playbook, MTV Networks said on Monday it planned to fund, for the second year in a row, a program to invest in college students to create new digital media businesses.

Viacom's mtvU TV network and communications equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO.O) will invest up to $250,000 in the college "Digital Incubator" program.

Two projects created out of the program's first year including a social networking media player that helps users select relevant online programming have been licensed by MTV, the company said on Monday.

"We're using the entire world as a laboratory for us to see whether it works," Dauman said.

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