It's Showtime at CBS ( CBS), where the cable network is emerging as a unique and underused asset in a more traditional media pool. When the Viacom ( VIA) banana was split last year, the CBS side got cash-generating but mostly slower growing properties like broadcast stations, the CBS network and publisher Simon & Schuster. CBS also got the more impressive-looking syndication arm King World and Paramount TV. Thrown in the basket was Showtime, a poor cousin to Time Warner's ( TWX) popular HBO cable subscription network. At Viacom, Showtime had a difficult time standing out from a crowd of hypersuccessful cable outlets like MTV and Nickelodeon. But now, with the full weight of CBS behind it, Showtime may be given its opportunity to shine. "We were anxious to get Showtime in our portfolio," says CBS finance chief Fred Reynolds. "We coveted another outlet for distinctive programming that could add to the overall depth of CBS." Despite having slightly more subscribers than HBO (when you include all secondary services each holds such as Flix and Cinemax), Showtime currently generates only a fraction of the revenue that the Sopranos producer does. Both HBO and Showtime have over 39 million subscribers. "Though management would not break out details, we estimate that Showtime earns only one-fourth to one-third of the $1 billion-plus in operating income before depreciation and amortization that HBO generates," Prudential analyst Katherine Styponias wrote in a recent note. But "with its recent success of original shows such as the Emmy Award-winning Weeds and The L Word and Sleeper Cell, management suggested that Showtime could, over time, have lots of potential." One former Viacom insider said, "On the Viacom side, Showtime was not given as much attention as it will now get, and it keeps CBS in the cable business -- which is a good thing."