Viacom beats protig estimates on higher fees for pay-TV networks

, The Associated Press

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Viacom Inc., owner of the Paramount film studios and cable networks such as Nickelodeon and MTV, narrowly topped analysts' profit estimates on higher fees from pay-TV operators and Internet services that carry its programming.

Excluding some items, earnings were 91 cents a share, the New York-based company said today in a statement. Analysts had predicted 90 cents on average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Growth in payments from television distributors such as Comcast Corp. and Netflix Inc. have helped Viacom compensate for lower ad sales. Even so, total revenue declined 16 percent to $3.31 billion and missed analysts' estimates of $3.48 billion.

Ratings at Viacom's Nickelodeon network were down about 6 percent last quarter from a year earlier, according to David Bank, a media analyst with RBC Capital Markets in New York. The good news is the network had seen seeing double-digit percentage declines and U.S. advertising may start to improve later this year, he said.

"While the ratings trends are encouraging, we think the domestic advertising recovery at Viacom is still on track to occur in the back half of 2013, and not sooner," he wrote in a note earlier this month.

Viacom, controlled by chairman Sumner Redstone, gained less than 1 percent to $59.33 at yesterday's close in New York. The stock has climbed 12 percent this year.

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