Media Stocks 2014: The Winners and Losers

Of the seven major conglomerates, two ended lower on the year: Viacom and CBS

Four of the seven publicly traded major media conglomerates outperformed the broader markets in 2014, the exceptions being 21st Century Fox, controlled by Rupert Murdoch, as well as CBS and Viacom, each of which are controlled by Sumner Redstone.

Time Warner led the sector higher, up 30 percent, nearly three times the 11 percent gain made by the S&P 500 in 2014. The bullishness can at least in part be attributed to a failed effort by 21st Century Fox to purchase the company for $85 a share. Some analysts say Time Warner is still an acquisition target, so it’s no surprise the stock has hovered at that value. On Wednesday, the last day of the year, Time Warner shares closed at $85.42.

Read more Wall Street's Entertainment Stock Picks for 2015: Disney, Fox, Time Warner

Walt Disney was next best among the conglomerates with a 25 percent gain as the company posted record revenue and net income on its fiscal year. This week, Disney released its movie slate for 2015, including CinderellaAvengers: Age of UltronTomorrowlandAnt-ManThe Jungle BookThe Good Dinosaur and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The latter is the most-anticipated movie of the year, according to Fandango.

Even Sony fared well in 2014, climbing 18 percent despite its well-publicized problems with computer hackers and what will likely be a multimillion-dollar write-off for The Interview.

Comcast, which is in the process of acquiring Time Warner Cable for $45 billion, saw its shares rise 13 percent on the year managing to slightly beat the S&P 500, but 21st Century Fox rose only 10 percent, so it slightly under-performed.

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CBS and Viacom, though, both declined 13 percent.

“Viacom’s performance has trailed peers this year as advertising weakness and fears around a shrinking pay TV ecosystem mount,” Janney Capital Markets analyst Tony Wible wrote on Dec. 10 when he nevertheless reiterated his “buy” recommendation on the stock.

As for CBS, it reported $10.13 billion in revenue for the first nine months of 2014, which was down 3 percent from the same frame a year earlier. Its operating income fell 5 percent in that period to $2.2 billion.

New-media companies were a mixed bag in 2014, with Netflix off 7 percent, Apple up 41 percent, Twitter down 44 percent and Facebook up 43 percent.

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Video-game stocks, though, were strong, with Electronic Arts up 105 percent, Take-Two Interactive Software up 61 percent and Activision Blizzard up 14 percent.

Lionsgate shares were up only 2 percent in 2014 despite the continuing success of The Hunger Games franchise and shares of DreamWorks Animation fell 37 percent as the company continued to feel the effects of under-performing movies such as Turbo and Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

Below are some of the winners and losers of 2014:

The Conglomerates:

Time Warner: 30 percent

Walt Disney: 25 percent

Sony: 18 percent

Comcast: 13 percent

21st Century Fox: 10 percent

CBS: Minus 13 percent

Viacom Minus 13 percent

Eight Winners:

Electronic Arts: 105 percent

Take-Two Interactive Software: 61 percent

Facebook: 43 percent

Apple: 41 percent

Dish Network: 26 percent

DirecTV: 26 percent

Yahoo: 25 percent

Regal Entertainment Group: 20 percent

Eight Losers:

Twitter: Minus 44 percent

DreamWorks Animation: Minus 37 percent

Zynga: Minus 30 percent

Discovery Communications: Minus 23 percent

News Corp: Minus 15 percent

TiVo: Minus 10 percent

Netflix: Minus 7 percent

Carmike Cinemas: Minus 6 percent

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com

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