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Broadcasting

UPDATE 2-DirecTV cash growth, buybacks help shares

* Q3 EPS $0.37 vs Wall Street view $0.39

* Q3 rev $5.47 bln vs Wall Street view $5.42 bln

* Added a net 136,000 U.S. subscribers

* Shares up 3 pct in noon trade (Adds analyst comment, share movement)

NEW YORK, Nov 5 (Reuters) - U.S. satellite television operator DirecTV Group Inc DTV.O reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly profit, but anticipation of further cash flow growth that could fuel more share buybacks helped lift its shares 3 percent.

DirecTV added 136,000 net subscribers in the U.S. in the third quarter, which was lower than the 156,000 it added in the year-earlier period. Average monthly churn, the industry term for subscriber losses, rose to 1.72 percent from 1.64 percent.

Kaufman Bros analyst Todd Mitchell had expected churn to fall to 1.55 percent and 175,000 net subscriber additions.

Net profit was $366 million, or 37 cents per share, in the quarter, compared to $363 million, or 33 cents per share, a year earlier. Analysts were expecting earnings per share of 39 cents.

DirecTV said third-quarter revenue rose 10 percent to $5.47 billion, above the average Wall Street forecast of $5.42 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The satellite operator’s free cash flow almost doubled to a record $643 million during the quarter. It also said it bought back $943 million of stock during the third quarter.

“The company has been signaling this slowdown in customer growth after a heavy growth period, it means the free cash flow will start to ramp up,” said Mitchell.

With slower customer growth, DirecTV is spending less on new equipment such as set-top boxes, Mitchell said, helping generate more cash used to reduce its outstanding base of stocks and thereby increasing their value.

DirecTV is controlled by John Malone's Liberty Media Corp LINTA.O. Liberty is planning to combine DirecTV with some of its assets to create a larger company and is seeking approval from shareholders on Nov. 19.

DirecTV’s Latin America operations added 162,000 net subscribers during the quarter with average monthly subscriber churn of 1.75 percent.

Shares of DirecTV were up 3.2 percent to $27.70 in noon trading on Nasdaq. (Reporting by Tiffany Wu and Yinka Adegoke; Editing by Derek Caney and Tim Dobbyn)

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