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Comcast revenue rises as it adds video, internet customers

(Reuters) – Comcast Corp, the largest U.S. cable operator, posted higher fourth-quarter revenue as it added new video and high-speed internet customers.

The owner of NBC Universal also increased its stock buyback program to $10 billion, of which it earmarked $4.25 billion for 2015, and raised its annual dividend to $1.00 per share from 90 cents.

Comcast, which is awaiting approval from U.S. regulators for its $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable, said on Tuesday total revenue rose 4.8 percent to $17.73 billion in the quarter ended December.

Net income attributable to Comcast inched up 0.6 percent to $1.93 billion, or 74 cents per share. Earnings was 77 cents per share after excluding items such as favorable income tax adjustments.

The company added video customers for the third time in the last five quarters, picking up 6,000 new subscribers from October through December. But that was less than the 46,000 it brought in a year earlier.

The number of new video subscribers is closely watched on Wall Street as pay TV operators fight to keep customers in the midst of competition from streaming video services.

Comcast’s high-speed internet customers rose by 375,000, a similar gain to a year earlier. The company also added 123,000 voice customers during the quarter.

At NBC Universal, revenue rose 2.3 percent to $6.62 billion, boosted by theme parks and the NBC broadcast network.

While the Universal theme park in Florida lured visitors with a new Harry Potter attraction, NBC’s performance has improved with bigger audiences for shows including “The Blacklist.”

Advertising revenue at cable networks dropped 5.6 percent in the quarter to $857 million amid a decline in ratings that has hit networks across the TV industry. The NBC broadcast network’s ad revenue rose 3.1 percent to $1.66 billion.

Revenue at the film studio fell nearly 11 percent from a year earlier, when the company benefited from home entertainment sales of blockbuster “Despicable Me 2”.

Comcast’s shares closed at $58.21 on Monday on the Nasdaq.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Savio D’Souza)

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