Viacom chmn/CEO Sumner Redstone talked up the media conglomerate’s powerhouse cable properties yesterday, crediting the nets with upping overall revenue by 19%. Revenue tallied $1.7bln, thanks to a 27% growth in ad sales at Nick, MTV, Comedy Central, VH1 and BET. Redstone reiterated his desire to split the company, separating the fast growers like MTV from free cash flow entities like CBS. The 1st company, led by co-pres/co-COO Tom Freston, will be made up of MTV Net cable nets and "should command a much higher multiple and provide a favorable currency that can in turn be used for niche acquisitions," he said. The 2nd company, led by Les Moonves, will consist of CBS, UPN, the TV production business and radio. The split could take place as early as 1Q of ’06. Retrans Game: While Freston said that retrans consent has been a boon to MTV Nets over the last 5 years, allowing Viacom to "mop up all kinds of analog and digital space," he warned investors that the retrans game is "largely over" as most of the deals are done until the end of this decade and because cable ops are likely to focus "more and more on VOD and broadband." On the Tiffany Net side, however, Moonves said "there’s a real possibility CBS will be able to generate cash" for its retrans.

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