Analyst: TV Ad, Ratings Trends Hurting Hollywood Stocks

A stock specialist on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange August 5, 2011 - H
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Shares of many big entertainment companies have kicked off the year with declines after setting all-time highs late in 2013.

After setting all-time highs in 2013, the stocks of many entertainment industry giants have trended down early in the new year.

MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson on Tuesday predicted that Hollywood stocks will remain under pressure over the near term, citing weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter cable TV trends that some industry CEOs mentioned at a December conference.

"For the first time in recent memory, some media executives, blaming softer scatter [ad market trends] and weak ratings trends, publicly talked down fourth-quarter advertising expectations," Nathanson wrote in a report. "While these comments were made back at an investor conference in December, it seems the market only started paying attention when the calendars turned to 2014." 

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He added: "Year-to-date, we have seen sharp losses at many of the mostly cable-network centric names that are impacted by both poor ratings and weak scatter demand." For example, Discovery Communications closed 2013 at $90.42, but finished Monday's trading session at $81.44. That meant a drop of 9.9 percent. 

Viacom's stock closed 2013 at $87.34, but finished Monday at $84.42, while shares of Walt Disney were down from $76.40 to $73.27 as of Monday night and CBS Corp. was down from $63.74 to $60.94. 21st Century Fox's stock over the same period went from $35.17 to $32.35, and Time Warner's from $69.72 to $65.47.

Nathanson suggested that the upcoming quarterly earnings season may not provide much of a boost for entertainment stocks.

"We think that first-quarter advertising and ratings trends could be negatively impacted by the Winter Olympics on NBC, which should gain share of viewers and dollars," he said. "As such, the near-term downward slide in media valuations could likely continue until earnings revision trends improve. Fourth-quarter results will likely not provide that relief."

Twitter: @georgszalai