UPDATE 1-CBS tops estimates on strong licensing revenue

(Compares with analysts' estimate, adds share movement, detail)

Feb 15 (Reuters) - Media company CBS Corp CBS.N, which is exploring a merger with Viacom Inc, topped quarterly revenue and profit estimates on Thursday, driven by strong growth in domestic and international licensing sales.

The company's shares rose nearly 2 percent in after-market trading.

The New York-based company's results come at a key juncture as CBS and Viacom Inc, which are both controlled by Sumner Redstone and his daughter Shari, each recently announced they had set up special committees to explore a merger.

CBS and Viacom, which Sumner Redstone split more than a decade ago, had explored a merger in 2016 at the urging of the Redstones. Those talks had failed, largely because it was not clear how to structure a deal that made sense for CBS shareholders.

Revenue from content licensing and distribution - which includes fees from the licensing of internally produced television programming and fees from the distribution of third party programming - rose 33.4 percent to $1.19 billion.

The owner of the most watched U.S. television network reported net income from continuing operations of $40 million, or 10 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, down from $271 million, or 63 cents per share, a year earlier.

The steep drop was largely due to a $129 million charge related to the recent changes in the U.S. tax law.

Excluding one-time items, CBS reported a profit of $1.20 per share, beating analysts' average estimate of $1.14, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

CBS's total revenue rose 11.5 percent to $3.92 billion.

Analysts on average had expected revenue of $3.7 billion. (Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)