By Jessica Toonkel and Munsif Vengattil
(Reuters) - CBS Corp <CBS.N> topped Wall Street's quarterly revenue and profit estimates on Thursday as U.S. and international distributors licensed more of its shows.
The owner of the most-watched U.S. TV network said it also expects high single-digit revenue growth for 2018 and earnings per share growth in the high teens, ahead of Wall Street's average estimates.
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The company's shares were slightly higher in after-hours trading.
CBS, whose shows include "Big Bang Theory" and "NCIS," has focused on diversifying its revenue away from advertising as many brands shift spending online from TV. Advertising accounted for 44 percent of its revenue in the quarter, compared to 51 percent a year ago.
The company said it now has nearly 5 million subscribers for its CBS All Access and Showtime online streaming services. Its goal is to have 8 million subscribers of the two services by 2020.
The New York-based media company beat Wall Street's expectations despite a 3 percent drop in advertising revenue after hitting a record the previous year.
CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves said on an analyst call he is "optimistic" that this year will see stronger political advertising than 2016 with the U.S. midterm elections.
CBS and Viacom Inc <VIAB.O>, which are both controlled by Sumner Redstone and his daughter Shari, recently announced they had set up special committees to explore a merger. Executives declined to address any discussions on the analyst call.
Revenue from content licensing and distribution rose 33.4 percent to $1.19 billion.
Excluding one-time items, CBS reported a profit of $1.20 per share, helped by a lower weighted average of shares outstanding related to the split off of CBS Radio and its share repurchase program. Analysts on averaged had estimated a profit of $1.14, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
CBS's total revenue rose 11.5 percent to $3.92 billion.
Analysts on average had expected revenue of $3.7 billion.
(Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Bill Rigby)