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Survivor of the Fittest

By Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible)
February 2, 2004

Between last night's Super Bowl and the premiere of All-Star Survivor, you've got to hand it to Viacom (NYSE: VIA). The company has clawed its way to the top of the ratings heap on the heels of hit shows like CSI, Everybody Loves Raymond, and the Survivor franchise.

The latest installment of the hit reality series that features favorite contestants from previous seasons should help keep CBS sitting pretty through the critical spring season. Yes, the company will lay low over the summer, but it's only natural to concede the seasonal lull to General Electric's (NYSE: GE) NBC. That's the network that will broadcast the Olympics from Athens.

But things will only get better for Viacom in the fall when NBC loses Friends and Frasier. This kind of momentum heading into an economic recovery is huge for CBS, as sponsors open up the purse strings and bid up commercial slots on the network's most popular shows.

The company lowered its guidance for 2003 back in September, but Viacom is making sound moves. Last year, the media giant acquired the remaining 50% of Comedy Central from Time Warner (NYSE: TWX). That should come in handy as we dig deeper into an election year.

For the year, Viacom is looking to grow earnings per share by 13% to 15%. Throw in popular cable assets MTV and Nickelodeon, and Viacom has built an impressive empire. That's not too shabby coming from a company that started out running movie theaters.

So, while viewers might wonder who gets voted off Survivor over the next few weeks, no such intrigue surrounds Viacom. It's a winner -- clutching the immunity idol -- with its torch burning bright.

Did you catch last night's debut of All-Star Survivor? Who will win? Will you be watching more this year or is the "best of" tag all too familiar after shows jump the shark? All this and more -- in the Survivor discussion board. Only on Fool.com.
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