Wires

UPDATE 2-Verizon subscriber addition beats estimates on Disney+ boost

Arriana McLymore and Neha Malara

(Adds details from results)

Jan 30 (Reuters) - Verizon Communications Inc on Thursday added more monthly mobile phone subscribers than expected as it benefited from including the Disney+ streaming service with some of its plans.

The largest U.S. wireless carrier by subscribers has cut prices and made its offerings more attractive by bundling services such as Apple Music to battle intense competition in the industry.

The company said it added 790,000 phone customers who pay a monthly bill in the fourth quarter, well above the average analysts' estimate of 525,000 subscribers, according to research firm FactSet.

Total operating revenue rose to $34.78 billion from $34.28 billion, beating the estimate of $34.60 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

In October, Verizon said it would offer a year-long subscription to Walt Disney Co's Disney+ with its unlimited plans, a move aimed at rival AT&T Inc, which is expected to launch its own streaming platform HBO Max in May.

Revenue in Verizon's media unit, which includes Yahoo, HuffPost and TechCrunch, was nearly flat at $2.1 billion from a year earlier. The company said it wrote down $236 million during the fourth quarter for the media business, which has struggled to grow as ad revenue moved to larger digital players like Alphabet's Google.

Net income rose to $5.22 billion, or $1.23 per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 from $2.07 billion, or 47 cents per share, a year earlier. The company also recorded a $2.2 billion tax benefit related to the sale of preferred shares in a foreign affiliate.

The company continued to aggressively build out its network of 5G in the fourth quarter. Verizon said it expects to spend $17 billion to $18 billion in building out 5G and upgrading its network in 2020.

Verizon reported adjusted earnings per share of $1.13, missing Wall Street estimates of $1.14.

Shares of Verizon were marginally down to $59.37 in pre-market trading. (Reporting by Arriana McLymore in New York and Neha Malara in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Chizu Nomiyama)