DirecTV Group, the country's largest satellite TV broadcaster, on Thursday said its net income rose 16 percent in the latest quarter, helped by subscriber gains.
However, most of the revenue increase from new subscribers and higher monthly fees was eaten up by higher programming costs, mainly for the NFL Sunday Ticket sports package. DirecTV's operating profit, before the effect of writing down the value of its assets, was flat.
In the fourth quarter, the El Segundo, Calif., company added 125,000 U.S. subscribers and 590,000 in Latin America, demonstrating a continued ability to draw customers from cable companies. It ended the quarter with 19.9 million subscribers in the U.S. and 7.9 million in Latin America
DirecTV is the second-largest provider of pay-TV signals to U.S. homes, after cable company Comcast.
Net income for the October-to-December period was $718 million, or $1.02 per share. That was up from $618 million, or 74 cents per share, at the end of 2010.
Analysts polled by FactSet were on average expecting earnings of 92 cents per share.
Revenue rose 13 percent to $7.46 billion from $6.62 billion. A big contributor was the NFL Sunday Ticket, as the average monthly fee for U.S. subscribers rose 4.9 percent to $101.38, breaking $100 for the first time.
Analysts were expecting $7.41 billion.
CEO Mike White said the company is on track to achieve its goal of earning $5 per share in 2013. That compares with net income of $3.47 per share, or $2.61 billion, in 2011. Earnings were up 19 percent from 2010.
Revenue for 2011 was $27.23 billion, up 13 percent from the year before.
DirecTV shares fell 47 cents, or 1 percent, to $45.83 in midday trading.