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By Jessica Toonkel
NEW YORK, May 4 (Reuters) - CBS Corp's on Thursday posted quarterly revenue and profit which beat analysts' estimates as the most-watched U.S. TV network benefited from higher content licensing and subscription fees.
For the first quarter ended March 31, the New York-based media company, which is home to the popular series "The Big Bang Theory" and "Homeland," reported a 16 percent jump in revenue from content licensing and distribution.
Affiliate and subscription revenue - which include revenue from cable TV operators and from its own streaming content - was up 16.6 percent.
But advertising sales, which account for half of the company's total revenue, dropped 23 percent to $1.6 billion from a year earlier, when the broadcaster's results included popular events such as the 50th anniversary of the National Football League's Super Bowl championship and an extra NFL playoff game.
CBS anticipates its retransmission consent and reverse compensation - which is the revenue from distributors and broadcast affiliates - to increase about 25 percent this year, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves told investors on an analyst call on Thursday.
The company, which also owns cable television's Showtime, is anticipating continued affiliate revenue growth at a time when the pay TV industry just reported its worst-ever subscriber loss for the first quarter.
"We are not being affected in any way by any changes in subscription numbers throughout the industry," Moonves said on the call.
CBS shares were up 1.8 percent at $65 in extended trading on Thursday.
Subscription and retransmission fees help the company offset fluctuations in advertising revenue, which can vary from quarter to quarter, depending on events.
The company said it is also focused on owning more of its content to help control costs and monetize it more effectively. CBS owns 16 of the 19 shows it is renewing this season.
CBS has also signed content licensing deals with Hulu, Verizon Communications Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google to carry the network on its planned web TV service.
Excluding one-time items, CBS reported quarterly profit from continuing operations of $1.04 per share, beating analysts' average estimate of 95 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Net income from continuing operations rose to $454 million, or $1.09 per share, in the first quarter from $442 million, or 95 cents per share, a year earlier.
Total revenue fell to $3.34 billion from $3.59 billion. Analysts on average had expected revenue of $3.27 billion. (Reporting by Jessica Toonkel, additional reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; editing by Sriraj Kalluvila, G Crosse)