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CBS earnings, revenue beat expectations on advertising gains

Media giant CBS reported quarterly earnings and revenue on Thursday that topped of analysts' expectations on the strength of increased ad revenues.

The company posted adjusted fourth-quarter earnings of 77 cents per share and revenue of $3.68 billion. Wall Street analysts had forecast CBS would deliver earnings per share of 76 cents on revenue of $3.65 billion, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters.

After the earnings announcement, the company's shares rose about 3 percent in extended-hours trading.

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CBS headquarters in New York
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"CBS's content continues to engage viewers around the world and create tremendous value for its shareholders," Sumner Redstone, CBS's executive chairman, said in the company's earnings release.

The company said its growth was driven by a 4 percent increase in advertising revenues, especially for its broadcast of "Thursday Night Football." It also cited additional gains from political revenues during the midterm elections.

CBS said that it would be increasing the pace of its share repurchases in 2015's first quarter with a target of $1 billion in stock. The company repurchased $800 million during the fourth-quarter, it said.

In the earnings release, CEO Leslie Moonves cited "increased demand for our content" as the reason for a strong quarter, and said he expected continued momentum.

Part of that future growth will come from "the most powerful NFL schedule anyone has ever had" with both Thursday games and the next Super Bowl, he said on the company's Thursday afternoon earnings call.

As for its cable networks—Showtime Networks, CBS Sports Network, and Smithsonian Networks—CBS said revenues increased 5 percent in part because of more money from Showtime original series licensing.

Moonves said on the call that digital distribution services are allowing the firm "to build new and younger audiences, all of which we are beginning to monetize."

He added that streaming services CBS All Access and CBSN "have both exceeded our expectations." Moonves said the company saw a surge of signups for All Access surrounding the Grammy Awards.

In December, CBS and Dish inked a multi-year content carriage agreement. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. During the past year, CBS stock has underperformed the broader market and dropped 7 percent.

Reports surfaced earlier this month that Moonves is considering buying the network from controlling shareholder National Amusements.

The rationale for the move, according to the New York Post, would be to control the company's fate ahead of a potential merger with Viacom, which could leave the chief in an inferior position to that company's CEO, and could negatively impact CBS minority shareholders.

"We are feeling pretty strong about ourselves and don't need any partners," Moonves said when asked about potential mergers.

"I'm extremely proud of all that we are doing to evolve into the digital future, and I'm certain that Les and his team are pursuing a winning strategy to keep CBS on top of its game for many, many years," Redstone (also the Chairman of National Amusements and Viacom) wrote in Thursday's release.