The entertainment industry isn't what it used to be. Cord cutting, streaming media online, and new distribution outlets like Sling TV are all seeking to disrupt a once stable industry. And the growth that drove cable companies to industry dominance is now taking a turn for the worst.
If you're going to invest in entertainment stocks, you don't want to have a company you need to watch quarter after quarter for subscriber growth or cost reductions. You want a company you don't have to babysit and will adapt to the market on its own. And here are three companies that fit that description.
One of the biggest players in cable today is Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA). And you might think that gives it a lot of exposure to cord cutting as customers choose new streaming options, but Comcast has built its own stable of content with the acquisition of NBC Universal.
As customers trend away from cable, they're trending toward broadband internet -- something Comcast also provides -- and toward spending more directly on content. That's been a big win for NBC Universal and the company is just starting to realize how to monetize those assets. The $30 subscription for the Tour de France this year could foreshadow how NBC Universal and other content companies sell live sports in their arsenal.
Content now has multiple revenue streams from the big or small screen to cable and streaming to theme parks. Universal's growing number of destination attractions are the final piece of the value puzzle for content and that makes it a stock built to last long-term.
What's interesting about Comcast's transformation over the past few years is that it's essentially copying Disney's (NYSE:DIS) business. Own the studios that make the content, charge customers for tickets and cable subscriptions, make money again on DVDs, streaming, and action figures, and finally complete the loop by drawing millions of tourists to theme parks around the world. Disney has done that with a massive amount of success, driving content from Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Disney's legacy studios over this waterfall of continuing cash flow.
The house Mickey Mouse built may be feeling some pressure because of increased profit concerns from ESPN, but the business as a whole is built to last for decades to come. And with the company just starting to leverage the content library CEO Bob Iger has acquired over the past decade, there's growth ahead outside of the ESPN platform.
While Comcast and Disney have traditional media studios, Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) is breaking all of the rules of cable. HBO was the first major cable network to break from the traditional cable bundle and offer over the top subscriptions on Apple TV.
Time Warner is arguably building one of the best content catalogs that will become a must have for any TV watcher. And it's able to charge $15 a month for HBO alone. Add-ons from other channels haven't started to make a dent in the revenue opportunity.
What Time Warner lacks that Comcast and Disney have is the additional revenue stream from theme parks. That's the price you pay for delivering content geared for adults rather than kids, but it's why Time Warner is third on this list of cable companies you don't have to babysit and not #1, where it arguably stands when it comes to content itself.