updated 4/19/2005 10:56:28 AM ET 2005-04-19T14:56:28

Viacom Inc. on Tuesday said first quarter net income fell from a year-ago period that was aided by a tax benefit, but revenue rose 5 percent driven by strength in the company's cable networks division.

Net income fell to $585 million, or 36 cents per share, from $710.5 million, or 41 cents per share, a year ago. Earnings from continuing operations in the year-ago quarter were $618.4 million, or 35 cents per share. Excluding a tax benefit of 6 cents per share, year-ago net income from continuing operations was 29 cents per share.

The result for the latest quarter topped analysts' estimates for earnings of 31 cents per share, according to a survey by Thomson Financial.

Revenue increased 5 percent to $5.58 billion from $5.3 billion, driven by gains across all businesses, particularly a 19 percent rise in cable networks revenue. Analysts had forecast revenue at $5.42 billion.

The cable networks division recorded revenue of $1.71 billion, and operating income up $622.5 million, which was up 20 percent from $520.4 million a year ago. Advertising revenue at the division, which includes the MTV International, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV, VH1 and BET channels, rose 27 percent.

Revenue at Viacom's television segment declined 5 percent, reflecting lower advertising revenues from CBS/UPN Networks and the company's stations group, mostly due to the absence of the Super Bowl and lower political ad spending and television license revenues.

For 2005, Viacom said it is on track to deliver mid single-digit growth in revenue and operating income and high single-digit growth in earnings per share. The company reported revenue of $22.5 billion, operating income of $5.1 billion and earnings per share of $1.54 in 2004, excluding non-cash impairment and severance charges and a tax benefit.

Viacom, which has previously announced its intention to split the company into two separate businesses, said it expects to complete its analysis of all the issues involved in such a move in the current quarter.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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