Flux can help revive Viacom's fortunes if the boss allows it

People are less forgiving on the other side of the pond. Observe the kind words and nice fat pay-off the outgoing ITV chief executive, Charles Allen, recently received from his employer.

Then compare it with the US where, if you work for the 83-year-old Viacom chairman, Sumner Redstone, you might emerge not only with a pay-off but also a sound butt-kicking.

Last week, in disposing of Viacom's chief executive, Tom Freston, after 26 years with MTV and then Viacom, Redstone delivered one of his famous tongue lashings. "On the one hand we love Tom," he said. "We really do, and we appreciate the contribution he's made. On the other hand, the board felt that not enough was being done - things weren't moving forward as aggressively and entrepreneurially as they should be - and that communication with Wall Street has been deficient and the stock price reflected that."

Ouch. That wasn't all. Following Freston's departure, the seething octogenarian, who also recently booted Tom Cruise out of his Paramount film studio, installed two of his private equity buddies as chief executive and vice-president of Viacom, raising concerns that the major shareholder is once again too dominant in operational matters. Earlier this year, Redstone demerged Viacom by spinning off its US network CBS as a separate company.

Since then CBS shares have risen while Viacom's have fallen, leaving critics to forecast a bleak future for Viacom in the face of online competition from music and social networking sites.

But in Europe at least, Viacom's brands, MTV included, have already started the fight-back. Arguably, Freston paid the price for missing out on prizes such as MySpace ("We bought a lot of little things and you can add it all up, but it's not MySpace," Redstone is reported to have said). However, Viacom is said to have pursued MySpace rival Bebo and, in the face of collapsing ringtone revenues in Europe, closed its music channel VH2 to be replaced with MTV Flux.

Flux was hyped as a new kind of media channel that will include user-generated content across online and mobile channels as well as TV. However, things aren't all going MTV's way with some artists, led by Billy Bragg, crying foul over Flux's plans for allocation of royalties.

Regardless, its creation holds the key to the future for MTV and Viacom more generally. Viacom also looks set for more aggressive acquisition - the clue is in the background of its new directors Philippe Dauman and Thomas Dooley, who ran the media investment vehicle DND Capital Partners. Redstone might hope they have the nous to spot the big investment opportunities and spot them quickly. Viacom's UK employees will undoubtedly be hoping the same.