NEW YORK - Strong sales of the video game "Rock Band" helped lift first-quarter earnings 33 percent at the entertainment company Viacom, a major cable network operator which owns MTV and Nickelodeon.
Viacom said Friday it earned $270 million, or 42 cents per share, in the first three months of the year, up from $203 million, or 29 cents per share, in the same period a year ago.
Excluding an investment write-down, earnings were 44 cents a share, ahead of the 41 cents per share predicted by analysts polled by Thomson Financial. The year-ago earnings were equivalent to 34 cents excluding a restructuring charge.
Revenue rose 15 percent to $3.12 billion from $2.72 billion.
Higher sales of "Rock Band" and a 22 percent gain in home video revenues outweighed a 7 percent decline at the box office. The home video business got a $29 million boost from the early termination of an exclusivity deal for the now-defunct HD-DVD format.
In April Viacom joined other Hollywood studios in a venture to create a new pay cable channel and video-on-demand service that would compete with Time Warner's HBO and CBS Corp.'s Showtime.
The channel is set to launch next year and would show movies from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. as well as Viacom's own Paramount Pictures.
Speaking on a conference call with investors, CEO Philippe Dauman called the initial expressions of interest in the channel "very encouraging."
Chief Financial Officer Tom Dooley said the company's total investment over the life of the venture was likely to be less than $100 million.
Advertising revenue rose 8 percent, despite concerns about the slowing economy, on gains at the cable networks Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and TV Land.