Whether economic times are good or bad, we all loved a mindless comedy show on television from time to time. Or how about watching the latest episode of our detective drama on the iPad sitting on the train on the way to work in the morning? The landscape in media may be changing rapidly, but it is here to stay, making it a great time to look at the investable stocks in the sector. (To help you invest, check out 5 "New" Rules For Safe Investing.)
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CBS Corp (NYSE:CBS) is a massive international media company that is best known for its CBS television network and its joint venture, The CW, also a television network. They also have their hands in radio, billboards and various other media subsectors. From a valuation viewpoint, CBS trades with an attractive forward P/E ratio of 12.8 and it pays a 1.5% dividend. Technically, the stock is trading just below a three-year high and has the best chart in the sector. Throw in the anticipated return of the hit comedy "Two and a Half Men" with new cast member Ashton Kutcher, and it appears CBS will stay at the top of the ratings list.
Another media conglomerate is News Corp (NYSE:NWS), the owner of the Fox television networks. Other than 27 U.S. television networks, the company also has interests in publishing, newspapers, advertising and international television stations. NWS trades with a current P/E ratio of about 16 and pays a small dividend of 0.8%. The chart is not as attractive as CBS, but in the $17 area the stock becomes an attractive investment opportunity again.
Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) is the owner of the self-named theme parks around the globe, but they are also the owner of ABC and ESPN. Because DIS is so diverse the television portion of the company does not have as big of an effect on the bottom line as the first two companies. However, ABC and ESPN are major brands for the company along with its smaller stations. DIS trades with a forward P/E ratio of 13.6 and it has a similar chart to NWS. An entry point near $40 with a tight stop-loss is not a bad entry point. (For more, check out Analyzing Show Biz Stocks.)
With everyone always on the go, the new media will need to keep up with the customer via wireless technology and on-demand. My pick in this category is Netflix (Nasdaq:NFLX), the online movie and television show rental service. With NFLX viewers are able to watch their favorite shows on-demand at home or on the go. The company has a much loftier valuation due to its high growth, checking in with a forward P/E ratio of 38.3 and no dividend. However, the chart is beautiful and an entry near $230 would be acceptable.
For the investor that wishes to shy away from company-specific risk there is the PowerShares Dynamic Media ETF (NYSE:PBS). The ETF is composed of 30 stocks and charges a net expense ratio of 0.63%. The top holdings include CBS, Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), The DIRECTV Group (NYSE: DTV), NWS and Comcast (Nasdaq:CMCSA). Over the last 12 months the ETF has gained 27%, slightly beating the S&P 500. (To learn more, check out Choosing The Winners In The Click-And-Mortar Game.)
The two major risks to the media sector are a slowing economy and the NFL strike. If the economy begins to revert back to 2008 levels, it will lower the advertising needed to keep revenue at high levels. This is important to watch closely. Then there is the possible NFL strike that would affect CBS, NWS and DIS, as they all broadcast NFL games throughout the season. Use stop-loss levels to protect against the two major risks. (To help your investment during the slowing economy, read 5 Strategies For Surviving Tough Times.)
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