- Associated Press - Thursday, November 11, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Viacom Inc. said Thursday that it plans to sell the company that developed the “Rock Band” video game franchise, a move that cut the media conglomerate’s third-quarter earnings by 59 percent.

The division, called Harmonix, has dragged on the company’s results for the past several quarters as shoppers continue to avoid big discretionary buys. Music games such as “Rock Band” have struggled in particular because of the pricey accessories required to play them.

But Viacom’s results otherwise beat Wall Street expectations, and its publicly traded shares climbed $1.24, or 3.2 percent, to $39.34 in pre-market trading.

Viacom, controlled by billionaire Sumner Redstone, said its cable TV properties, which include BET, MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, continued to take in more advertising revenue as ratings improved. Revenue from its Paramount Pictures division also edged up, though profits in the division slipped.

Overall, the New York-based company said its net income fell to $189 million, or 31 cents per share, from $463 million, or 76 cents per share, a year ago. The most recent quarter included $260 million of write-offs on the value of Harmonix.

Excluding those charges and other unusual items, Viacom’s adjusted earnings rose to 75 cents from 71 cents per share. That’s 5 cents better than analysts expected, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

Revenue climbed 5 percent to $3.3 billion from $3.17 billion, matching the average Wall Street forecast.

Cable revenue rose 8 percent to $2.1 billion, with the unit’s operating profit up 9 percent to $873 million.

Film revenue rose 1 percent to $1.2 billion, while operating profit dropped 29 percent to $52 million.

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