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Washboard abs are an indisputable asset--and they're a stock.

At least that's the notion regurgitated by National Media


. Last quarter, couch potatoes lusting for ripped abdominal muscles helped drive earnings 59% higher to $4.994 million, or 18-cents a share, compared with net income of $3.145 million, or 15 cents a share in the year-ago period. Strong returns on products like the Ab Roller (You know,

"It's the Ab Roller!!"

) and other late-night infomercial products (

"It's a fishing lure!"

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) contributed to earnings. But investors were far from pumped-up. At midday, the Philadelphia-based purveyor of infomercials was down + at 12 + at mid-session.

Last week National Media appeared on investor radar screens, skidding 19.9% from just above $14 to become one of the biggest losers of the week on the Big Board. Rumors that the company might get stung by an upcoming Supreme Court decision concerning "must carry rules" seemed at the heart of the selling.

"Must carry" rules force cable companies to run local network affiliates on their systems. The cable companies are suing in hopes of charging the networks for this service. With the potential threat of affiliates being yanked off the air, investors peppered the phone lines of National Media, in fear that there would be fewer outlets for informercials. "It's really a non-issue for us," says Bruce Boyle, director of investor relations. "If the cable companies leave the affiliates on, we stay on. If they leave a channel dark, we're the most logical choice of dark time. Either way we win."

National Media has taken $29.2 million in revenue from an August secondary offering to pay off debt. That offering diluted the value of existing shares, which plummeted from $21 1/2 to $16 and cut the holdings of big share holders. Among those big players:

Ab Roller King Sylvester Stallone

, who's holding about 3.97% of the company.

With a cleaner balance sheet, the company can continue its ambitious global expansion plan. They're now in 278 million households in 65 countries, dubbing their programs into everything from Japanese to Afrikaans. Globally they broadcast five times as many programming hours as the big three American networks combined. Other products like Royal Diamond non-stick cookware and the Flying Lure (which has grossed $50 million) continue to reel in customers

Analysts like George Sutton of Rauscher Pierce Refsnes, Inc. rate the company a buy, expecting growth in excess of 25% a year for the next three years. Sutton's 12-month price target is $23.00. All told, despite last week's precipitous drop in price, analysts think that National Media is far from going belly up. But last week's skid sure was a gut check.