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Don't Tune Out All the Media Stocks

By David Smith - Updated Apr 5, 2017 at 7:58PM

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Amid all the negative newspaper news, you should take a look at one media company.

You've read recently that Chicago's Tribune Company, which a year ago was privatized by real estate magnate Sam Zell with the aid of an employee stock ownership plan, has filed for bankruptcy protection. No surprise there. I told Fools when the deal was being done that you can't logically layer $13 billion in debt atop an atrophying industry and expect solid results.

And then there's the vaunted New York Times (NYSE:NYT), which is trying to monetize its still-new headquarters building and may sell some assets, including perhaps its Boston Globe and New England properties. Beyond that, no newspaper property is shooting the lights out, including McClatchy (NYSE:MNI), A.H. Belo (NYSE:AHC), and Lee Enterprises (NYSE:LEE). In short, you'll likely see more than a few newspapers fold in the not-too-distant future.

So much for the media space, you say. But my response is that you just might be carrying things a bit too far. I remain convinced that one or two members of the cable subsector deserve your attention in this topsy-turvy market. My favorites continue to be Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), in that order. Comcast is the group's majordomo and, to my way of thinking, a solid play, even amid a slowing economy.

Oh sure, there could be a slowdown in the growth of the industry's premium video services, but notice I'm saying a slowdown in growth, not a pullback. At the same time, while newspaper revenues continue to slide like kiddies on a playground, Comcast's year-over-year ARPU (average revenue per unit) grew by 8.8% in the third quarter.

And while there's also the possibility that increased dependence by telephony customers on their mobile units will slow expansion of that part of the triple-play offering, the company envisions solid prospects for replacing the telcos as servers of smaller businesses. Ditto high-speed data, where Comcast in particular is steadily adding speed to its offerings. Then there's the notion that in times of economic recession, folks are more likely to stay home in front of the proverbial tube than to hit the shopping or restaurant trails.

None of this is to call forth the notion that Comcast is the next great bottle rocket. But media as a whole has been pretty well shunted aside during the past couple of years. I'm here to argue to my Foolish friends that at least one company in the group packs some downside protection and shouldn't be tossed aside like the proverbial daily fish wrapper.

For related Foolishness:

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned above. He does welcome your questions, comments, or kibitzing. The Fool has a disclosure policy that's read 'round the world.

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Stocks Mentioned

Comcast Corporation Stock Quote
Comcast Corporation
$38.17 (-1.07%) $0.41
The New York Times Company Stock Quote
The New York Times Company
$30.64 (-1.07%) $0.33
The McClatchy Company Stock Quote
The McClatchy Company
Lee Enterprises, Incorporated Stock Quote
Lee Enterprises, Incorporated
$19.81 (-0.95%) $0.19

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