American families spend a little more than $3,000 on entertainment each year, or about what they shell out at restaurants. Two of the biggest line items are costs associated with accessing TV and movie content, which helps explain why companies are aggressively targeting these profitable niches.
Many will fail to turn their content portfolios into sustainable competitive advantages. But Netflix (NFLX 2.60%), Disney (DIS -0.65%), and Scripps Networks (SNI), appear poised to soak up market share over the coming years and deliver strong returns to investors along the way.
Internet television is replacing traditional broadcast TV, and there's no single company better positioned to capitalize on this shift than Netflix. But before you take one glance at its stratospheric price-to-earnings valuation and decide to pass on the stock, here are two good reasons to believe the streaming video king's best days are ahead.
First, 2017 is the year in which, just as CEO Reed Hastings and his team promised, profits start to flow back to the business. After years of costly expansion spending, operating margin is set to reach 7%, or almost double the 4% Netflix managed in each of the last two years.
Second, this will be the year that Netflix passes 100 million global subscribers, and that means a lot in a business that rewards scale and favors companies with worldwide reach. While most of Netflix's base still resides in the U.S., the growth story increasingly has a global character. International additions made up the biggest portion of the company's 19 million subscriber gains last year to keep its awesome streak of accelerating annual member growth alive.
Disney recently closed the books on an incredibly successful year at the movies. Thanks to key contributions from each of its biggest studios -- Pixar, Disney Pictures, Lucasfilm, Disney Animation, and Marvel -- the entertainment giant led the industry with a record $7.5 billion of box office revenue in fiscal 2016.
In part because of that unusually strong result, fiscal 2017 is likely to include a minor step backward. After all, there will be no surge in ticket sales or consumer products revenue that's comparable to 2015's relaunch of the blockbuster Star Wars franchise.
However, Disney has already achieved impressive early box office wins with Beauty and the Beast, Moana, and Rogue One. In addition, investors can look forward to another blockbuster global event -- that lifts both ticket sales and consumer products revenue -- when the company releases Star Wars: Episode 8 in December.
Rising lifestyle ratings
Scripps Networks' latest operating results demonstrate that solid sales and profit growth are still possible in an era of declining TV subscriber figures. Against that stiff industry headwind, the company grew ratings across its portfolio of channels last year, with the biggest gains coming from its core HGTV and Food Network properties.
As a result, ad sales spiked 10% in the sluggish U.S. market to pass $2 billion for the first time yet. HGTV finished the year as the third-ranked cable network for adults, and that channel, along with DIY Network and Cooking Channel, had its most watched year ever.
Scripps Networks has a strong pipeline of new content that executives hope will help it continue to attract an expanding pool of the demographics that U.S. advertisers most covet. Bold bets on international expansion, meanwhile, should start paying off soon, especially now that the Polish TVN network is benefiting from the recent HGTV launch onto the service. Executives believe global sales growth will speed up to a 6% pace in 2017 from 4% last year -- not bad for a stock that's valued at just 15 times trailing earnings.