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UPDATE 3-Viacom beats revenue estimates despite distribution headwinds

(Adds detail on U.S. ad sales)

Nov 16 (Reuters) - Viacom Inc, owner of MTV, Comedy Central and Paramount, reported mixed quarterly results Thursday as higher-than-expected revenue in its film unit and improved domestic ad sales offset lower revenue from U.S. cable TV operators and online distributors.

Like other media companies, Viacom has struggled to boost ratings and advertising as viewers increasingly watch their favorite shows on electronic devices and phones.

Revenue from Viacom's film unit, which includes theater and licensing revenue, grew 2 percent to $789 million from a year earlier.

However, domestic affiliate revenue fell 3 percent to $948 million in the quarter. Analysts had expected a 1.8 percent drop, according to financial data and analytics firm FactSet.

Domestic ad sales were flat at $936 million, while analysts had expected a two percent increase. Still, U.S. domestic ad sales were Viacom's strongest since 2014, according to a Jefferies report on Thursday.

The company's shares were up 1.6 percent in premarket trading.

Chief Executive Bob Bakish, who took the helm late last year, has made improving relations with cable and satellite companies a priority.

Last month, Viacom reached a deal with Charter Communications to put eight of its most popular networks in Charter's cheapest U.S. cable bundle.

Under the deal, which was announced Wednesday, Viacom will also create original content for Charter's Spectrum customers and all its channels will remain available.

Net profit attributable to Viacom rose to $674 million, or $1.67 per share, in its fiscal fourth quarter ended Sept.30, from $254 million, or 64 cents a share, a year earlier.

The quarter included a $127 million gain from an asset sale.

Total revenue rose 2.9 percent to $3.32 billion.

Excluding items, the company earned 77 cents per share.

Analysts, on average, had expected earnings of 86 cents per share and revenue of $3.23 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. (Reporting by Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru and Jessica Toonkel in New York; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Bernadette Baum)