UPDATE 2-Discovery earnings up on TV ad sales, distribution

Tue Nov 1, 2011 5:36pm EDT

* Earnings 59 cents/share vs Wall St. view 54 cents/share

* Revenue rose 18 percent to $1.1 billion

* Sales at both U.S. and international networks rise

By Paul Thomasch

Nov 1 (Reuters) - Discovery Communications Inc reported better-than-expected quarterly results and the media company behind hit cable TV shows such as "Storm Chasers" and "Deadliest Catch" bumped up its full-year outlook.

Discovery, whose cable networks include Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet, benefited from solid advertising sales at both its domestic and international networks, showing no ill effects from the grim economy. Revenues from fees it collects from TV distributors also surged.

The shares of Discovery, already one of the most expensive media companies, trading at about 15.5 times earnings, rose 2.7 percent to close at $42.27 on Tuesday.

Overall, Discovery's third-quarter net income rose to $237 million, or 59 cents a share, it said. That surpassed the $186 million, or 37 cents a share, it earned a year ago. It also beat Wall Street estimates of 54 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue increased 18 percent to $1.1 billion.

"Demand for high quality programming has never been higher," Chief Executive David Zaslav said on a conference call. "There has never been a better time to be in the content business."

Last month, Discovery struck an agreement with Netflix Inc that marked its first major deal to make full episodes of its TV shows available for streaming. Previously, the company hesitated when it came to streaming deals, wary of the threat Web distributors posed to the cable industry.

And cable TV remains Discovery's bread and butter. This quarter, Discovery was helped by one of its up-and-coming networks, Investigation Discovery, the fastest growing U.S. cable channel.

Seeking to relieve worries about ad spending, Zaslav told investors he saw "sustained strength" in the market and no sign marketers planned to bail out on commitments.

He also hoped to reassure Wall Street about the performance of one of its highest-profile ventures, the Oprah Winfrey Network.

A joint venture between Discovery and Oprah Winfrey's production company, OWN launched in the United States early this year, but struggled to gain traction with viewers.

Zaslav said OWN was "building nice momentum heading into 2012," with the recent debuts of "The Rosie Show" and "Oprah's Lifeclass."

Given its stronger-than-expected third-quarter earnings, the company slightly raised its full year outlook for both earnings and revenue. It now sees revenue in a range of $4.175 billion to $4.25 billion, up from a previous range of $4.08 billion to $4.18 billion.