CBS (NYSE: CBS ) and Viacom (NYSE: VIA ) were split into two separate media empires to give the faster-growing Viacom a little more room to run, and allow CBS the luxury of lower growth expectations as a sleepy old-school broadcaster. It hasn't worked out that way. Viacom has struggled, with its shares trading slightly lower this year, while CBS has risen 12% in a mixed year for media companies.
This morning, CBS once again debunked the lethargic-twin tag. Earnings per diluted share from continuing operations climbed 27% higher to $0.42, with free cash flow soaring 65% higher to hit $432 million. The top line clocked in essentially flat at $3.4 billion.
Sticking to "continuing operations" at CBS isn't some parlor trick, either. The company did sell off its Paramount Parks amusement park business to Cedar Fair (NYSE: FUN ) earlier this year, so it's important to keep this on an apples-to-apples basis.
Without the parks, CBS posted earnings of $1.55 a share on $14.1 billion in revenue last year. For all of 2006, CBS is looking to grow its top line in the low single digits. Its operating income will improve with mid-single-digit growth, and its earnings per share will increase in the high single digits. In other words, CBS may not be much of a sizzler in terms of revenue growth, but its margin expansion is a trait that any investor can come to appreciate. It also positions the company to narrowly beat out Wall Street's estimates, which call for CBS to earn $1.65 per share this year.
If that doesn't move you, consider that CBS has raised its dividend three times since it started trading as a standalone company in January. And if the CW network joint venture with Time Warner (NYSE: TWX ) bears fruit, then even shutting down the UPN subsidiary, which initially could have been viewed as a sign of failure on CBS's part, may turn out to be a positive here in the fall.
OK, so CBS will never be high-octane growth material. Its best-performing division this year has actually been its outdoor billboard subsidiary. The point, however, is that the pieces fit at CBS. This tortoise can still beat out the hare with the MTV haircut.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz doesn't watch as much CBS as he used to -- the new Survivor and umpteenth CSI spin-off just aren't cutting it with him -- but he's still watching other shows on the network. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.The Fool has a disclosure policy.