The tech-heavy NASDAQ fell 2.6% today, apparently reflecting fears that many companies — after soaring in 2013 — will report disappointing info on Q1 sales. The concern has been building: Netflix, for example, is down 25.7% over …
The markets closed the books today on Q1 trading, and it began with a shrug for media stocks. The Dow Jones U.S. Media Index fell 2.4% over the three-month period, behind the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500, which was +1.3%. Sony was the top-performing Big Media company, with shares +10.6%. It was trailed by Disney (+4.8%), Viacom (-2.7%), CBS (-3.0%), Comcast (-3.7%), News Corp (-4.4%), Time Warner (-6.3%) and Fox (-9.1%). There’s a much wider gap between the best and worst performers among other media companies we track most closely. World Wrestling Entertainment led the pack, helped by its launch of WWE Network, a $9.99 a month live streaming video service. Its shares appreciated 74.2% — followed by Barnes & Noble (+39.8%), RealD (+30.8%), and Cinedigm (+26.7%). At the bottom we find DreamWorks Animation (-25.2%), National CineMedia (-24.9%), and Sinclair Broadcasting (-24.2%).
Here’s how individual companies fared:
The industry couldn’t withstand the downdraft across the financial markets today as reports in China showed weaker-than-expected industrial growth and as Russian troops began military exercises near the border with Ukraine. The Dow Jones U.S. Media Index fell …
Netflix was the clear winner and Twitter an equally clear loser in what was generally a pretty good earnings season for media companies based on the market reactions to execs’ quarterly reports and commentaries. Among 25 of the biggest or most interesting companies that I track, 17 beat the overall market in the trading day after they announced their results while eight lagged. I calculated the results by looking at how much each stock rose or fell in the trading day after the company reported. Then, to reduce the effects of changes in the market, I subtracted any gains or added back any declines in the day’s movement of the benchmark Standard & Poors’ 500. The results show that Netflix was +17.4% after it exceeded analyst expectations for its revenues, profits, and domestic streaming subs in the last three months of 2013. But Twitter’s -25.4% indicates that its first earnings report was a bust as CEO Richard Costolo, faced with disappointing sub growth numbers, vowed to make the service easier for newbies to use.
Here’s how the group stacks up:
Shares in the streaming video company appreciated 297.6% during the latest 12 months, well ahead of everyone in the companies we track — including media industry giants, where CBS (+67.5%) led the pack. But you shouldn’t hear many complaints. The Dow Jones U.S. Media Index rose 12.3% in Q4, and 47% for the entire year, as investors became increasingly comfortable about the prospects for information and entertainment companies in a period of strengthening ad sales, low interest rates, and prodigious stock repurchases and dividend payments. The sector was well ahead of the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500, which was up 9.9% in Q4 and 29.6% for the year. Big Media companies will look back at the year fondly. After CBS, the top performers were Viacom (+65.6%), Sony (+54.4%), Disney (53.4%), Time Warner (+45.8%), Discovery (+42.4%), Comcast (+39.1%), and Fox (+37.9%). But lots of other companies did much better. Industry winners after Netflix include Best Buy (+236.5%), Pandora (+189.8%), Sinclair Broadcasting (+183.1%), DreamWorks Animation (+114.2%), and Live Nation (+112.2%). The year’s underperformers include RealD (-23.8%), Barnes & Noble (-0.9%), Apple (+5.4%), and TiVo (+6.6%).
It’s fun to see Wall Street analysts defend the pay TV oligopoly’s bundled pricing as a model of market capitalism — and a kind of public service. And nobody does it better than Needham and Co analyst Laura Martin, who has some eye-popping estimates this week in her intriguing analysis of what might happen if consumers had the freedom to just pay for the networks they want. She figures that could result in the loss of at least 124 channels, $45B a year of TV ad sales, 1.4M jobs, $20B in annual tax payments, and $117B in market value for media company investors. The big problem: Channels need to reach at least 30M households in order to be measured by Nielsen, and most wouldn’t cross that threshold if they had to compete on their own. That would endanger much of the $56B that national advertisers paid content creators in 2012. To stay even at about 180 channels per subscriber, then, consumers would have pick up the slack — adding the advertisers’ expenditures to the $76B that subscribers paid (60% of which went to content creators with the remainder to distributors). The average annual bill would rise about 75% to $1,260. But that’s a fantasy: The goal of a la carte is to lower consumer payments. Surveys show that consumers want to pay about $30 a month. That leaves too little revenue to sustain the status quo. It costs an average of $280M a year to program an entertainment channel (from $1.1B for TBS to $50M for TV Guide Channel). While at least 124 would have to go, as many as 173 might disappear depending on other assumptions. The economic argument is so lopsided that “we foresee only a remote chance that the TV ecosystem will be unbundled in the U.S.,” Martin says.
Listen to (and share) Episode 59 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman. Deadline’s financial editor joins host David Bloom and Jonathan Geller of Deadline’s sibling site BGR.com in talking about the mobile business, starting with the fundamental face-off between Apple and Google over mobile business models. They also talk about the prospects for Samsung, Microsoft and BlackBerry; T-Mobile’s radical new approach to the mobile phone business; a new study suggesting more than half of Internet bandwidth is consumed by just two sites, YouTube and Netflix; and the dubious future of next-generation video game consoles as Sony launches the PS4 today and Microsoft debuts the Xbox One in a week.
Separately, the two Davids pick through the most notable news from this week’s media earnings reports, including MGM’s 2012 gifts that keep giving, CBS and Dish Network doing a dance around the Hopper and Viacom’s debt to Miley Cyrus and some zombies.
Most Wall Street analysts, eager to sell stocks, pull their punches when faced with questions that might lead to uncomfortable conclusions. But Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger and MoffettNathanson Research’s Michael Nathanson have proven their fearlessness over the years — which is why I was so pleased to see both out this morning with thoughtful reports that reach different conclusions about a key question: How much longer can the go-go period for media stocks last? Shares have been on a tear for the last three years largely because moguls stopped using cash to build empires choosing instead to slim down (as News Corp/Fox did, and Time Warner is doing, by unloading their publishing units and CBS is doing with its billboard ad business) and returning cash to shareholders. Stock buybacks in particular “have been enormous,” Nathanson says, with Viacom cutting the number of outstanding shares by 21% followed by Time Warner (-17%), Discovery (-16%), Scripps Networks (-12%), News Corp/Fox (-12%), CBS (-11%), and Disney (-6%).
This was the quarter when Facebook left behind memories of its troubled IPO last year: As it reassured investors that it has a strategy to sell ads on mobile platforms, its shares closed Q3 at $50.23 — a 101.9% gain since the end of June. That’s the biggest jump …
Media CEOs don’t run their companies by themselves. Having looked at chiefs whose pay is out of whack, and those who are paid the most, here are others of note: the five best compensated company chairs, COOs, CFOs, and General Counsels as well as 10 other execs with standout compensation. We find that the five highest paid chairs collectively made $106.5M (+4.1% vs. 2011), with the COOs at $136.2M (+7.5%), CFOs at $77.9M (-15.0%), and General Counsels at $42M (+6.4%). Keep some caveats in mind with these results: I looked only at chairs who aren’t also CEOs, and there aren’t that many. (To avoid duplication, I combined the compensation that Sumner Redstone collected at CBS and Viacom, and that Charles Dolan received at Cablevision and AMC Networks.) Also, it’s often hard to define the roles that execs play. For example, Disney and Comcast don’t list a COO and Comcast’s CFO is also the Vice Chairman. So these compensation figures from company proxy statements can help you to see how the media power elite stack up, but only tell part of the story. Finally, remember that the SEC requires companies to provide compensation information for their five top executives. It’s safe to assume that several unlisted execs at big companies were paid more than some listed execs at smaller ones. Here’s how some of media’s top non-CEOs fared in 2012:
Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger says today that it’s a possibility after CBS unloads its billboard business. It’s widely believed that the company will use the cash it raises for what the analyst calls “a massive buyback” — possibly as much as $8B, or more than a quarter of CBS’ market value. Ordinarily that would be greeted by cheers on Wall Street. Nearly every Big Media company has a huge stock repurchase plan, part of CEOs’ efforts to appease investors who fear that the industry’s glory days will fade in the Internet era. Moguls may not understand digital media, but they know simple math: Earnings per share rise when a company reduces the number of shares. But if CBS takes the strategy to an extreme with a ginormous repurchase, it may be surprised by the Street’s muted response, Juenger warns. Recalling the infamous scene in Happy Days when Fonzie water-skied over a shark — signalling the audience that the show had run out of ideas — he says the company could create “a seminal ‘jump the shark’ moment, triggering media investors to re-evaluate what all these buybacks — at the expense of doing anything else — are really doing for them in the long run.” In CBS’ case, the company would be “still heavily advertising dependent and heavily U.S.-centric.”
It isn’t a la carte but Verizon’s proposal to tie what it pays to carry TV channels to the number of viewers who actually watch is what big media companies might consider “disruptive”, according to the Wall Street Journal. Verizon’s FiOS TV is the nation’s sixth-largest pay-TV provider and has begun negotiations with some smaller companies about basing what Verizon pays on audience size. Under the established industry model, cable and satellite operators pay a monthly per-subscriber fee to carry channels based on the number of homes the channels are available. Verizon’s chief programming negotiator Terry Denson suggests that in many cases “We are paying for a customer who never goes to the channel”.