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Comcast profit, sales top estimates

PHILADELPHIA Cable giant Comcast Corp. (CMCSA), the nation's largest provider of TV and high-speed Internet services, more than doubled its net income in the third quarter, helped by fewer cancelations of video service than expected and by breaking even on the expensive-to-produce London Olympics on NBC.

Net income rose to $2.11 billion, or 78 cents per share, in the three months through September from $908 million, or 33 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding earnings from businesses in which it had a minority stake, adjusted earnings came to 46 cents per share, matching the expectation of analysts polled by FactSet.

The adjustment factored out a $319 million gain from the sale of its minority stake in A&E Television Networks, which owns pay TV channels such as A&E, History and Lifetime.

Revenue grew 15 percent to $16.54 billion, blowing past the $16.07 billion expected by analysts.

Its shares rose 19 cents to $36.55 in premarket trading.

The Philadelphia-based company lost 117,000 video subscribers in the quarter, leaving it with about 22 million. Video subscriber losses have slowed for eight quarters in a row, which the company said was due to better customer service and fewer in-person service calls. Analysts were looking for an average decline of 123,000.

Comcast is mainly losing subscribers to telecom and satellite TV providers. Verizon and AT&T already reported gains in the quarter of around 317,000 combined.

Comcast added 287,000 Internet customers, beating the 273,000 expected, giving it more than 19 million. It gained a net 123,000 voice customers, also beating the 116,000 gain expected.

More video customers signed up for all three services and the revenue it made from every video customer grew 9 percent to $150.73 a month.

An increasing number of customers added advanced products such as high-definition digital video recorders, which helped boost revenue per video customer, even though some analysts were expecting a decline.

The good news on the Olympics wasn't a surprise after NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke said on Aug. 1 that the Games would likely break even rather than cause a $200 million loss, as was predicted earlier. The company decided to telecast events live on its website but wait several hours before airing them again in prime time in the U.S. The move ended up helping audience ratings, not hurting them, as the buzz on social media helped drive viewers to their living rooms.

Comcast said it took in $1.19 billion in revenue for the Olympics alone during the quarter, topping the $1.18 billion it paid for the rights. The company also spent production dollars on camera crews, announcers and the like.

The money helped NBCUniversal, which saw revenue rise 31 percent to $6.82 billion. Excluding the Olympics bump, revenue still grew 8 percent.

Broadcast ad revenue at NBC more than doubled to $1.99 billion, and rose 9 percent excluding the Olympics.

Ad revenue on pay TV networks such as Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC and NBC Sports was up less than 1 percent to $807 million.

It wasn't immediately clear if pay TV network advertising revenue would have fallen without the boost from the Olympics.

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