Why I Am Long Time Warner: Opinion

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Over the last several days, I have been making my case for and against a handful of media stocks including, most recently, Pandora ( P).

Today I'll discuss what is likely the most undervalued stock in the bunch: Time Warner ( TWX).

When I evaluate media stocks, I judge them with the following five criteria:
  • Massive and/or rapidly growing revenue
  • Multiple, diverse streams of revenue
  • Multiplatform delivery of premium content
  • Direct control over premium content
  • Ubiquity

TWX pretty much nails it on every count. As an investor who looks for companies that operate from a position of strength in the media space, I salivate over Time Warner.

Consider Time Warner's massive reach and synergistic capabilities.

The company has three business segments: Networks, Filmed Entertainment and Publishing.

Within those three areas, you'll find myriad prime properties, many of which you probably wouldn't associate with Time Warner. They range from HBO, TNT, TBS and CNN to People, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Time.

And, of course, don't forget about Warner Brothers, which has its hands in movie, television and digital distribution as well as interactive entertainment. I like to call Time Warner's under-the-radar omnipresence "hidden ubiquity."

It's clear to see where the company scores high on my list of criteria, with one exception: multiplatform delivery. While it has dipped its toes in the area, Time Warner has not been quite as aggressive as Disney ( DIS), which includes its most valuable programming (e.g., ESPN) in several TV Everywhere initiatives.

Generally, I would see this relative lack of aggression as a problem. That's not the case, however, with Time Warner.

The company's HBO GO shows the world and its competitors that it "gets" the importance of multiplatform delivery. It is ready, willing and able to operate in an era where the old guard must embrace new and social media. But, given the truckload of premium content Time Warner controls, there's really no need for it to rush into anything. It can simply sit back, let the dust settle and call the shots when it decides the time is right.

If Time Warner considered Netflix ( NFLX) (NFLX) a legitimate threat, its executives would probably be offended that Reed Hastings thinks he can build an original programming powerhouse that resembles HBO overnight.

Remember, it took Time Warner decades to construct the Home Box Office empire. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes has the luxury of sitting back and watching Netflix flip, flop and flounder, while he keeps an eye on the moves his more credible peers make.

If "cord-cutting" is indeed for real, Bewkes can turn on a dime. But why would he jump the gun when he certainly has old guard interests (cable, satellite, DVDs, etc.) to protect? This is not a company fighting for survival. There's no need to be rash.

Typically, I do not pay much attention to price-to-earnings ratios. I consider myself, primarily, a long-term qualitative investor.

Although I like to see strong metrics in terms of revenue growth, cash, debt and profitability (or a clear path to profitability), I do not invest on the basis of numbers, particularly P/E.

If a company can logically and coherently show me where it's going without an overreliance on the past and a stubborn attachment to the present, I can overlook some weakness.

That said, there's hardly any quantitative weakness at Time Warner. Already massive revenue continues to grow, profits should surge year over year, the rising dividend appears more than safe, and calling Time Warner's forward P/E of less than 10 "low" is an understatement.

Low P/Es often scare me away, because they often indicate "a sinking ship," as in low investor confidence in the future (see Research In Motion ( RIMM) and RadioShack ( RSH)).

But there's no need for that caution with Time Warner. Time Warner crosses over; it's still growing yet offers investors extraordinary value. And the company isn't in need of a turnaround. It already generates billions in revenue and massive profits that should easily exceed $3.00 per share this year and next.

When a company generates the amount of revenue Time Warner does, however, you need to look under the hood, and further inspection shows that Time Warner has barely begun to scratch the surface when it comes to monetizing the properties and content it owns in the digital realm. Look out when Bewkes decides to pull the trigger.

Time Warner is a cash cow with infinite ability to not only further monetize its current assets, but add to its stable along the way. Madison Square Garden ( MSG) is just one example of a regional powerhouse, with a diverse set of holdings, that might look nice as part of the Time Warner family.

At the time of publication, Pendola held shares of TWX, LULU and MSG, and held a short options position in NFLX.

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