■ Action/Event: We leave our 2016/2017 EPS forecasts broadly unchanged post Q4 2015 earnings at $5.91/$6.90 (previously $5.91/$6.89). With secular headwinds stabilizing and given substantial restructuring potential, we upgrade our TP to $65, which assumes a still-modest 11x 2016 P/E (previously 10.2x), and continue to regard the risk/reward going into the DISH renewal as highly attractive. We remain OP.
■ Challenges remain, but the pace of change will be slow: Our thesis is Viacom's core cable networks business faces challenges from a shrinking pay TV universe but that the pace of shrinkage is likely to be slow, which will give all the players in the ecosystem time to adapt their business models. With important strategic shifts from media companies on SVOD licensing, we remain very comfortable with our thesis post earnings season.
■ Restructuring potential could be substantial: With 20 cable networks outside the core five (Nickelodeon, MTV, VH1, BET and Comedy Central) absorbing combined programming costs of approximately $1.6bn pa, we believe the debate about how many networks Viacom actually needs to be relevant to distributors and consumers will continue.
■ DISH renewal next big catalyst: As we argued in our last report, we believe the DISH renewal is most important near term catalyst. We continue to believe the probability that DISH will drop Viacom is close to zero. This suggests the risks remain skewed to the upside in our view.
■ Valuation: Despite the recent rally in the stock price, Viacom continues to trade at very modest multiples, 7.0x 2016 EV/EBITDA, 8.4x P/E.
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