(Reuters) - Comcast Corp posted a higher quarterly profit on Wednesday, as it added more Internet customers than expected on the cable side and saw a more than 20 percent increase in operating cash flow at its NBC Universal unit.
The top U.S. cable TV provider, which also owns NBC Universal, posted a second-quarter profit of $1.73 billion, or 65 cents a share, compared with $1.3 billion, or 50 cents a year ago.
Comcast's cable unit, which has the most U.S. subscribers of any cable company, ahead of Time Warner Cable, added 187,000 high-speed Internet customers on a net basis. This beat analysts' expectations of 150,500 additions, which Wall Street was expecting, according to StreetAccount.
Comcast, like its smaller rivals, increasingly rely on Internet customers for growth as they continue to lose cable TV subscribers and grapple with rising programming costs.
Comcast lost about 159,000 video subscribers in the quarter, which slightly beat estimates of a loss of 159,700 subscribers, according to Street Account.
Comcast clinched full control of NBC for $16.7 billion in February by buying out General Electric's stake in the broadcaster earlier than expected.
Chief Executive Brian Roberts said in a statement that NBC Universal has "real momentum, with solid growth in revenue and double-digit cash flow growth."
Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan said NBC Universal beat his estimates, partly driven by broadcast network ratings, which benefited from the return of hit singing show "The Voice" in the second quarter.
"On the TV side you can really see a benefit in primetime ratings at NBC and a 13 percent increase in advertising revenue, which was more than people had modeled," he said.
Operating cash flow at NBC Universal rose 21 percent to $1.191 billion, driven by the box office performance of the action movie "Fast and Furious 6" and a strong quarter at its cable network units, which oversees channels such as Bravo, E! and the Golf Channel.
The cable industry faces a challenge from customers who consume an increasing amount of Internet video and subscribe to lower-cost alternatives such as Netflix.
It beat Wall Street analysts' estimates by 2 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue rose 7 percent to $16.27 billion. Analysts, on average, expected $16 billion.
Comcast's shares rose 3 percent to $44.00 in premarket trading.
(Reporting by Liana B. Baker; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)
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