NEW YORK - Comcast Corp , the largest U.S. cable television provider, posted a better-than-expected fourth quarter profit as it tightened its costs but lost subscribers reflecting stiff competition with phone and satellite companies for customers.

Excluding a $600 million writedown of its stake in wireless company Clearwire Corp and other one-time expenses, its quarterly profit was 27 cents a share compared with the average Wall Street estimate of 22 cents, according to a poll by Reuters Estimates.

Net profit fell 32 percent to $412 million, or 14 cents a share compared with $602 million, or 20 cents a share in the year ago quarter.

Revenue rose 7 percent to $8.765 billion during the quarter beating average $8.631 billion.

I think the market may have been bracing for lower customer additions and for results to be disappointing but their financials were better than market expected, said Collins Stewart analyst Thomas Eagan.

Comcast also said it would increase its dividend by 8 percent to 27 cents a share for the year.

The company posted a significant slowdown in subscriber growth due to the recession and competition for customers.

It lost 233,000 basic video subscribers during the quarter, more than expected by Sanford Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett who forecast a loss of 117,000.

Comcast added 247,000 digital video customers and 184,000 high speed Internet subscribers but Moffett had been expecting additions of 466,000 digital subscribers and 284,000 Internet subscribers.

Phone subscriber additions, previously the company's growth engine, totaled 340,000 subscribers, compared with Moffett's estimate of 425,000.

Cable companies have been winning phone customers from companies such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications . But Comcast and its peers have started to see the same 'cord cutting' that the phone companies face as more households drop traditional phone lines for cell phones only.

Comcast met expectations of total average revenue per user which came in at $113.80 a month. Executives at the company have focused in recent quarter of improving this metric rather than chasing market share.

(Reporting by Yinka Adegoke; Editing by Derek Caney)