Viacom earnings beat the Street as Comcast, GE near NBC deal

Viacom (VIA), the parent company of MTV, Comedy Central and Paramount, offered an early Christmas present to investors, with a healthy quarterly earnings report driven by increasing advertising revenue and improving profit margins. The media giant reported a 15 percent increase in profit, thanks in part to its third quarter of sequential ad revenue gains.

Viacom's sunny report comes as arch-rival NBC Universal and Comcast (CMCSA) are nearing agreement on a deal that would create a media and distribution juggernaut at a time of wrenching technological change in the media business. Viacom's report kicks off a spate of media company earnings, which should serve as a barometer for the battered industry.