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Twenty-First Century Fox profit tops estimates, revenue misses

By Anya George Tharakan and Jessica Toonkel

By Anya George Tharakan and Jessica Toonkel

(Reuters) - Twenty-First Century Fox Inc <FOXA.O> reported a quarterly profit that beat analysts' expectations, as its television and cable units benefited from hosting the World Series and its cable news channel enjoyed strong ratings during the U.S. presidential campaign.

However, the Rupert Murdoch-controlled parent of Fox News and FX posted second-quarter revenue that fell short of expectations. Fox's shares were down slightly 0.32 percent in after-hours trading on Monday.

The second quarter results demonstrate the importance of live news and sports for media companies as Fox generated higher ad revenue from the World Series, higher political ad spending during the U.S. presidential election and higher affiliate revenue.

On an analysts' call Monday, Fox Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch noted that the Super Bowl, which Fox hosted on Sunday night, marked the company's first $500 million dollar revenue day.

He told analysts that he expects affiliate revenue growth to accelerate in the second half of the year.

Fox said revenue at its cable division, which houses the Fox channels among others, rose 7.1 percent to $3.97 billion in the quarter ended Dec. 31.

Domestic advertising sales in the cable business rose 12 percent in the quarter, the company said.

Fox News finished 2016 as the most-watched U.S. cable network in prime time for the first time in its history, according to Nielsen data in December, as Trump's victory drew in extraordinary audience interest.

Twenty-First Century Fox said revenue in its film division decreased nearly 4 percent.

The company's total revenue increased 4.2 percent to $7.68 billion.

Analysts on average were expecting revenue of $7.72 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net income attributable to Fox shareholders rose to $856 million, or 46 cents per share, from $672 million, or 34 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, Fox earned 53 cents per share, above analysts' average estimate of 49 cents.

Fox has also made a formal approach to take full control of the British-based Sky Plc <SKYB.L>, with a $14.6 billion bid, enabling it to control a business with 22 million customers in Britain, Ireland, Italy, Germany and Austria.

Chief Executive Officer James Murdoch said the company has no plans to bring that business to the United States.

The company expects the deal to close on or before Dec. 31, 2017.

(Reporting by Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru and Jessica Toonkel in New York; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Cynthia Osterman)