The coronavirus pandemic has made things tough on most companies, but it has arguably taken the biggest toll on entertainment enterprises. Even those consumers who aren't afraid of gathering in a large crowd may still be leery of splurging.
There are some entertainment names, however, that are not only surviving in this challenging economic environment, but thriving in it. Others are positioning smartly for the recovery that should take shape once the COVID-19 pandemic is finally over.
Sony (NYSE:SONY), Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), and Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ:CZR) are among those names worth considering right now as stock investments. Let's find out a bit more about these three entertainment stocks.
You may see Sony as the long-time maker of tape recorders, television sets, and camcorders, but Sony is so much more than that these days. In fact, consumer electronics only make up about a fourth of the company's revenue. Another fourth comes from its video gaming business centered around PlayStation consoles. Cameras, movie production, and music publishing each make up around 12% of Sony's top line, while its financial services arm drives roughly 16% of its sales.
This revenue diversity has not only allowed Sony to smooth out erratic sales and earnings, but it also gives the company opportunities to focus on what's working well.
The real game-changer as we head out of 2020 and into 2021, however, is a reinvigorated gaming industry.
Ratings agency Nielsen reported earlier this year that at the peak of lockdowns, 82% of the world's consumers were playing video games of some sort. Even as recently as August, U.S. consumer spending on video games and hardware was up 37% year over year, according to market research firm NPD Group. And the company specifically noted that its subscription-based video game service had seen decided growth in recent months. With the launch of Sony's next-generation PlayStation 5 console slated for later this month, the company should see strong demand from now-hooked gamers who may be on the hunt for something newer and better. Sony says it's aiming to outsell the PlayStation 4 in its first year of launch, which saw the purchase of 7.6 million units. That's huge.
The clincher: The version of the PlayStation 5 that doesn't come with a disc drive not only costs $100 less than the disc-drive version that will retail for $499, but it will also steer consumers toward Sony's online menu of game downloads. Those digital downloads generally mean higher margins on game sales.
Most investors think Comcast is primarily a cable television company, and as such, a name to steer clear of. Cord-cutting is killing the business segment. That line of thinking is flawed, though.
Yes, Comcast is the owner of cable brand Xfinity, which lost another 273,000 customers last quarter. That brings the two-year attrition tally to nearly 2 million people who've canceled their Xfinity cable service.
But cable is only a fraction of Comcast's business, and the company is adding subscribers to a much more important and much more profitable offering. Last quarter's $5.4 billion worth of cable revenue only accounted for 22% of the company's top line, and during the same quarter, it added 633,000 new high-speed internet customers. It's added over 3 million broadband subscribers in just the past couple of years, and the internet-customer relationship is one that can be leveraged in a lot of ways, like offering wireless phone service or ad-supported streaming TV.
Yes, Comcast continues to hurt in other ways. It's also the owner of NBCUniversal, which is a TV and film presence. NBC is on the wrong side of the cord-cutting movement, and theaters have been shut down for the better part of the year.
Comcast is adapting on those fronts too, however. Its ad-supported streaming platform, Peacock, now boasts 22 million viewers since its public debut in mid-July, and while it's not yet the new norm, Universal has found respectable success in bypassing theaters and selling new films directly to consumers.
Comcast can survive a shrinking cable TV market.
3. Caesars Entertainment
Finally, add Caesars Entertainment to your list of entertainment stocks to buy.
It's suffered its fair share of problems in 2020. Just when it looked like the company might be able to shrug of the impact and drama related to its 2015 bankruptcy and subsequent restructuring, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the casino and resort industry in a hurry. The United States gambling business contracted 79% during the second quarter of the year, according to the American Gaming Association.
The company is using the slow time to maneuver for what the world may look like once the pandemic is in the rearview mirror. In September, it confirmed a $3.7 billion bid for U.K.-based bookmaker William Hill (OTC:WIMHY), and just a couple of weeks before that, it entered into a joint venture with Walt Disney's ESPN and DraftKings (NASDAQ:DKNG). Both deals put Caesars Entertainment in a better position to plug into a fragmented but fast-growing sports betting and online gambling market that could be worth $150 billion per year.
To this end, three more U.S. states legalized sports betting with last week's election, bringing the total to 25. Caesars Entertainment is just following the trend.