Updated from 11:10 a.m. EDT


(VIA) - Get Report

, paced by strong growth at cable units




, posted a 69% jump in net earnings in the first quarter Wednesday and easily topped Wall Street estimates.

The New York-based entertainment giant, which is close to completing its $37 billion deal to acquire


(CBS) - Get Report

, reported net income of $76 million, or 11 cents per share, vs. $45 million, or 5 cents a share, a year ago. Analysts surveyed by

First Call/Thomson Financial

had projected earnings of 6 cents per share.

"Viacom is off to a strong start in 2000," said Sumner Redstone, Viacom chairman and chief executive.

He attributed much of the strength to the performance of MTV Networks, which turned in its fifth consecutive quarter of 20%-plus ad sales growth, and Showtime, which registered a 25% gain in quarterly earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. That earnings measurement, known by its acronym EBITDA, is a commonly used barometer for the performance of entertainment companies.

Viacom jumped 2 11/16, or 5%, to 54 7/16 in midday trading. (Viacom closed up 2 13/16, or 5%, at 54 9/16.)

The company, which also owns the film studio

Paramount Pictures



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, the world's biggest video chain, reported a 9% increase in EBITDA, to $519 million from $475 million. Operating income rose 10% to $306 million from $278 million and revenue increased 3% to $3.03 billion from $2.95 billion.

Viacom said it expects a strong second quarter as well. The company pointed to robust ad spending and a movie slate that includes

Rules of Engagement

, which has grossed $43.1 million since its release earlier this month, and the Tom Cruise movie

Mission Impossible II

, which will open over Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of the summer movie season.

Redstone, in a conference call with analysts, spent some time trying to assuage market fears that a "shakeout" among Internet companies will slow the rate of overall advertising spending.

"I want to disabuse all of you of the idea that we're depending on dot-com advertising," Redstone said. "We look at this as found money." Redstone called the percentage of Viacom's overall ad revenue that comes from Web companies "extremely moderate."

Redstone also said that "we are witnessing a bull market in advertising" that is not limited to dot-com spending and he expects ad spending to continue growing over the next several years at a robust pace. "It is so vibrant it is unbelievable," he added.