By Rishika S and Jessica Toonkel
(Reuters) - Time Warner Inc reported higher-than-expected earnings on Wednesday on strong revenue from its HBO cable channel and Turner Broadcasting unit.
The New York-based company said first-quarter net income rose to $1.21 billion, or $1.51 per share, from $970 million, or $1.15 per share, a year earlier.
Excluding special items, earnings were $1.49 per share.
Analysts on average had expected a profit of $1.30 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Despite the profit beat, however, the company said it still expected 2016 earnings before special items to be in the range of $5.30 to $5.40 a share.
Revenue rose to $7.31 billion from $7.13 billion, roughly in line with analysts' expectations.
The company's shares were up 3.1 percent at $75.95 in morning trading.
Revenue from HBO, home to popular shows such as "Game of Thrones," rose 7.7 percent in the quarter.
Revenue at Turner rose 7.2 percent, boosted by higher ratings for CNN ahead of the U.S. presidential election.
"CNN continued to build on its success by more than doubling its prime time audience in the quarter," Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bewkes said in a statement.
Subscription revenue at Turner rose 11 percent, while advertising revenue increased 5 percent. The unit also benefited from the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball tournament, which Turner shares the rights to with CBS Corp.
For the first time, Turner aired the championship game of the season.
Time Warner executives on a Wednesday conference call were bullish about the ad market for the 2016. They forecast advertising revenue growth for the second quarter at a mid-to-high single-digit percentage rate.
Time Warner's Turner unit has tried to woo younger viewers by offering full seasons of its shows for "binge-watching" to check the flow of subscribers to online services such as Netflix Inc and Hulu.
(Reporting by Rishika Sadam in Bengaluru and Jessica Toonkel in New York; Editing by Don Sebastian, Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Lisa Von Ahn)