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LOS ANGELES (TheStreet) -- The media stock swoon continued on Thursday as disappointing second-quarter earnings from Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox (FOXA) - Get Fox Corporation Class A Report and Sumner Redstone's Viacom (VIAB) - Get Viacom Inc. Class B Report prolonged the downtown in television stocks that began earlier this week when Disney (DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report acknowledged subscriber decline at its powerhouse sports network ESPN. 

Fox was plummeting 11% to $28.42 while Viacom was close behind, losing 10.7% to $46.15, extending its one month decline to 27% and 39% for 2015. 

AMC Networks (AMCX) - Get AMC Networks Inc. Class A Report, Scripps Networks Interactive (SNI) and Disney (DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report were close behind, all suffering the fallout of investor concern that the pay-TV model that has long fueled these companies is weakening as increasingly viewers turn to streaming video led by Netflix.

"The institutional selling in this group is pretty mindless," said Jim Cramer, portfolio manager of the Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. "I think that using the decline to buy some Disney for the long term makes a ton of sense as it is far more diversified than the others."

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Disney CEO Robert Iger sparked the tidal wave against media stocks when he was forced to acknowledge that the company's cash cow, the sports juggernaut ESPN, had lost subscribers. Iger's stock-rattling signal was clear: not even ratings-proof live sports programming was as durable as previously thought. The company also slashed its profit guidance for its powerhouse cable networks unit.

Time Warner reported robust earnings Wednesday, but it was still not enough to weather ESPN's warning bells. Scripps also beat Wall Street estimates, and were then beaten down in trading. When it was all said and done, the S&P Media index fell more than 6%.

The selloff threw into relief investors' simmering anxieties about traditional media's future profitability as ad dollars flow online to companies like Facebook (FB) - Get Meta Platforms Inc. Class A Report and Google's (GOOGL) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report YouTube, while cord-cutters leave cable TV altogether for streaming services like Netflix (NFLX) - Get Netflix, Inc. Report. The trends have ratcheted up pressure on earnings at some of the industry's most resilient companies and called into question the future of its business model.

It's not just Iger that gave Wall Street jitters. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes refused to offer specifics to an analyst's question on a future earnings guidance a day after Disney slashed its profit expectations for its cable networks unit. Discovery Communications, which has expanded its foreign sports TV acquisitions in the hunt for profits, was hurt by a strong dollar and said it was likely to halt its buyback.

"Across the board, you're seeing media companies scare investors," BTIG Reseach analyst Rich Greenfield told CNBC.

This week feels like a tipping point in the perception of old media companies. They're still profitable, but just how profitable will they be in the coming years when more people abandon linear TV and cable bundles for standalone online streaming and mobile video?

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21st Century Fox, though it topped estimates, posted a 4% decline in broadcast revenue due to lower ratings. Programming costs at Fox are tied largely to live sports -- an issue piling up at ESPN and Time Warner's TNT -- and caused operating income to decline 22% in the segment.

TV viewership, especially among the youngest viewers advertiser desire most, is down. Way down, Nielsen estimates. And those viewers use Netflix to consume video, according to a recent survey.

"Netflix is stealing away audience from them," Mediamorph chairman Shahid Khan said in a phone interview. "It's not directly a competition [with linear TV], but it's a competition for eyeballs."

Khan said data shows that if Netflix were a traditional TV network, it would become the top-rated on U.S. television sometime next year.

That change is happening while the likes of Disney, Time Warner, Scripps and others all license their content libraries to Netflix. But such deals for big media companies won't go far enough to replace the falling dual revenue streams of cable affiliate fees and advertising, Khan added.

The content licensing game with Netflix and rival Amazon (AMZN) - Get Amazon.com, Inc. Report has created a scenario of self-inflicted wounds for TV companies, Greenfield said.

"By doing that licensing, it's actually decreasing interest in watching linear, live TV, which is hurting advertising and is driving people towards on-demand programming, meaning Netflix," Greenfield said.

"I think investors are just de-risking right now relative to the Netflixes and Facebooks," he added.

But no matter how fast consumers and dollars run to new media, Iger has been steadfast, even sanguine, that the cable bundle is ESPN's best play for the next half decade.

"We are very bullish about our cable business, and we are very bullish about ESPN," Iger said on CNBC, defending his cable network after its shaky performance. "The bundle is not going away. Not only is it not going away, it is going to continue to grow."

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no position in the stocks mentioned.