UPDATE 1-Strong ad sales lift Viacom Q3 revenue
Aug 2 (Reuters) - Viacom Inc reported a 14 percent rise in third-quarter revenue on Friday on strong advertising and affiliate fees at its cable television networks.
The company, which owns cable networks MTV, Comedy Central and movie studio Paramount Pictures, also expanded its share buyback program to $20 billion from $10 billion.
Total revenue for the quarter was $3.69 billion, compared with analysts' expectations of $3.58 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. It recorded revenue of $3.24 billion a year ago.
Ratings at some of its channels, including the children-oriented Nickelodeon, have improved because of new programming. Ad revenue in the United States rose 6 percent, compared with a 2 percent rise in the previous quarter.
Over the past several quarters, Viacom's stable of networks had suffered from poor ratings, which in turn affected advertising. TV ads are closely aligned with ratings - the more people who watch a show like SpongeBob SquarePants, the more money the network can get for a commercial.
Affiliate revenues, or the money that Viacom receives to license its TV programs in deals like its agreement with Amazon.com Inc, jumped 28 percent in the United States.
Revenue rose 15 percent at its Paramount Pictures unit to $1.16 billion on strong box office for like "World War Z" and "Star Trek Into the Darkness."
Adjusted for special items including tax benefits, net income rose 24 percent to $635 million, or $1.29 per share, compared with the same quarter a year ago. Analysts expected $1.30 per share.