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Viacom profit up with box office and The Beatles

Viacom Inc. quarterly profit breezed past expectations as consumers set aside money worries to scoop up the new Beatles video game and buy tickets for box-office hits like “Transformers” and “G.I. Joe”.

Cost-cutting also helped Viacom, which overcame a continued slump in advertising sales that has hurt the entire media industry, as corporations have held back on rolling out big, new television campaigns.

Overall, Viacom, which runs a host of media businesses including MTV, Comedy Central and the Paramount movie studio, said on Tuesday that profit rose to $463 million, or 76 cents a share, from $401 million, or 65 cents a share, in the same period a year ago.

Adjusted earnings totaled 69 cents per share, well ahead of the 57 cents per share analysts had expected.

While Viacom is not as dependent on advertising as some other media companies - such as corporate sibling CBS Corp - it still gets about 30% of annual revenue from ads. In the third quarter, US advertising revenue fell 4%, while worldwide advertising revenue dropped 5%.

A solid quarter at the box office from Paramount helped make up for the tough advertising environment. While DVD sales slumped, pulling worldwide home entertainment revenue down 21%, consumers showed a willingness to hit the movie theaters during the summer months.

“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” jump-started Paramount's box office totals. Worldwide theatrical revenue rose 16% in the quarter.

The company also cited “strong” sales of the new video game “The Beatles: Rock Band”, though it did not break out figures for the game in its quarterly earnings release.

Still, overall revenue fell 3% to $3.32 billion, largely in line with the $3.3 billion expected from analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

As a result, the company banked heavily on cost-cutting during the quarter. Total expenses drop nearly 7% to $2.53 billion. (Reuters)