Cramer: I'd rather own the 'given-up-on' stock of Viacom than CBS

  • Viacom's stock has "much more opportunity for upside" than the beloved stock of CBS, CNBC's Jim Cramer says.
  • The "Mad Money" host says he would prefer buying the beaten-down entertainment play over CBS.

On Thursday, CNBC's Jim Cramer didn't just see the beginnings of Viacom's turnaround — he saw the turnaround itself.

"The turn itself ... [has] been engineered by Bob Bakish, who was named CEO in December of 2016," the "Mad Money" host said after the media giant's earnings report. "It's a pretty incredible one."

Viacom's third-quarter results beat analysts' earnings estimates, but missed on revenue, with worldwide affiliate revenue sliding 3 percent to $1.15 billion. Domestic advertising revenue also fell 3 percent to $922 million.

Since Bakish took the helm, Viacom, which owns film and television properties including MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, VH1 and Paramount Pictures, has put through cost-cutting and boosted its intellectual property wares.

On Thursday, Bakish told Cramer that Viacom's intellectual property — longstanding franchises like "Mission Impossible" and "Jack Ryan" as well as newer content like Netflix's "13 Reasons Why" — is "absolutely at the core of our turnaround strategy."

"That means fully leveraging the intellectual property we own" across its television and Paramount subsidiaries, Bakish said.

The CEO has also been refurbishing the company's balance sheet, driving sales with low-budget hits like "A Quiet Place," partnering with Amazon on a new "Jack Ryan" series and chasing international growth.

"You know what's the most amazing thing about this turn? So few people know that it's happening — most people aren't even aware that Viacom even owns this stuff," Cramer said.

Instead, Viacom has been plagued by endless coverage of its merger disputes with CBS, the complex family ties between the two and reports of sexual harassment allegations against CBS CEO Les Moonves.

"There's been a continual narrative out there that says Viacom is going to buy CBS and CBS shareholders will be crushed because it will be succumbing to an inferior company," Cramer said.

"After today, I wouldn't be so sure CBS is the better business," he concluded. "However, I'd certainly rather own Viacom here than CBS. Everyone's given up on Viacom, which means it's got much more opportunity for upside than a stock everyone fawns over like CBS."

Shares of Viacom closed up 5.37 percent on Thursday at $35.30. CBS' stock inched up 0.77 percent, settling at $53.57.

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Disclosure: Cramer's charitable trust owns shares of Amazon.

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