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Comcast posts earnings of 84 cents a share vs. 79 cents estimate

Comcast offices in Philadelphia.
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Shares of Comcast edged higher in premarket trading after the company reported quarterly earnings and revenue that beat analysts' expectations on Wednesday.

Comcast posted first-quarter earnings per share of 84 cents, up from 81 cents a share in the year-earlier period. Revenue for the quarter came in at $18.79 billion, against the comparable year-ago figure of $17.85 billion.

Analysts expected Comcast to report earnings of 79 cents per share on revenues of $18.64 billion, according to Thomson Reuters consensus estimates.

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Shares traded over 2 percent higher in light volume after the news.

The results were bolstered by the biggest first-quarter gain in pay-TV customers in nine years and growth in its business services, high-speed internet and entertainment units.

Comcast, based in Philadelphia, added 53,000 pay-TV subscribers in the quarter ended March 31, after losing 8,000 in the year-ago period. Comcast has been investing to improve customer service and enhance features of its set-top boxes and TV interface to retain and attract subscribers.

The number of new television subscribers is closely followed on Wall Street as pay-TV operators fight to keep customers from switching to lower-priced video streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.

The largest U.S. cable operator and the No. 1 U.S. high-speed internet provider, Comcast has increasingly pivoted as viewers adopt over-the-top online streaming options. Meanwhile, regulators at the Federal Communications Commission have weighed rules that would introduce new competition to the rented set-top box traditionally used by television providers.

Comcast's Xfinity services now stream directly to some Samsung televisions, for example. Comcast, which owns CNBC's parent company, also debuted OTT site Watchable in September.

Comcast and rivals such as satellite-TV operators Dish Network and AT&T have raised 2016 rates to cover rising costs to provide broadcast programs and sports content.

Comcast's business services unit posted $1.3 billion in revenue, up 18 percent from a year ago.

Comcast said internet revenue grew 8 percent to $3.3 billion, as customer additions rose 8 percent to 438,000. The gain was the biggest for any first quarter in four years.

The NBCUniversal division, which includes news cable networks, NBC, Telemundo, film studios and theme parks, posted a 4 percent rise in overall revenue to $6.9 billion.

Revenue at its Universal film studio, which did not have major releases in the first quarter, totaled $167 million, down 43.1 percent from a year earlier when its "Fifty Shades of Grey" turned out to be a blockbuster.

Revenue at Universal theme parks soared 53.6 percent to $375 million, boosted by Harry Potter attractions and the addition of Universal Studios Japan. Comcast bought a majority stake in the Japanese studio for $1.5 billion in September.

Advertising revenue at cable networks were unchanged from a year ago at $851 million. Ad revenue at broadcast networks dipped 17.2 percent from a year earlier to 1.3 billion.

Shares of Comcast closed at $61.05 on Nasdaq on Tuesday. Shares of the company are up more than 2 percent over the past year.

(Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC and CNBC.com.)

CNBC's Fred Imbert and Anita Balakrishnan contributed to this report.