The latest sign of improvement in the media economy: Viacom (VIA) announced Wednesday plans to return excess cash to investors in the form of a dividend and a stock buyback. The dividend of $0.15 per share will be paid out on July 1 to those who hold class A and class B common stock as of June 21, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said at the conglomerate's annual shareholder meeting. It's the first time the company has paid a dividend since it split with CBS (CBS) in 2006. The company also says it will spend as much as $4 billion to repurchase its own stock.

Both the dividend and the buyback were made possible by a marked improvement in Viacom's cash flow. While worldwide revenues were up only modestly in the first quarter of 2010, by 3%, that rise coincided with the effects of deep cost cuts implemented over the past two years, resulting in a 37 percent year-over-year increase in quarterly profit.


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