NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Viacom ( VIA) shares hit a 52-week high today after Davenport analyst Michael Morris upped his rating on the stock to a buy from a hold. Shares spiked to a 52-week high of $47.91 this morning after Morris improved his rating on the stock, citing the company's recent gain in ratings.
Its well-performing reality program, The Jersey Shore, recently helped MTV close out 2010 with its largest year-over-year ratings gain since 1999. In the fourth quarter of 2010, the network saw a 24% increase in ratings from the same period a year earlier, marking its fourth consecutive quarter of growth. The third season premiere of The Jersey Shore on Jan. 6, 2011 delivered a record-breaking 8.5 million total viewers and ranked as MTV's most-watched series telecast ever. However Morris sees evidence that the improvement in ratings is due to more than MTV's "one-hit wonder." "The broad-based success at MTV... indicates that improvements are a function of a portfolio of ideas rather than a single program," Morris said in his Jan. 12 research note. Morris believes that Viacom will continue to peak to new highs. He upgraded his 12-month price target on the stock to $50 from $38, due to expected advertising growth and strengthened content branding.