Something All Investors Must Do During Earnings Season

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I know people -- non-gamblers, non-fantasy football geeks -- who record their favorite football team's game on Sunday and break down the tape during the week.

While I have been known to obsess over the Toronto Maple Leafs -- taking cross-continent red eye flights to games and such -- I have never put that much work into being a fan.

Galavanting to Toronto to see the Leafs makes up just one part of a larger travel experience.

Some sports fans, however, take on the role of assistant coach. They study tape between games.

Imagine investing that much time, energy, work ethic and passion into your portfolio. Imagine the places you could take yourself and your family.

The NHL lockout made me realize that, even though I don't wear a whistle around my neck and scream at the TV set, I was spending time on hockey that I could have been spending on investing.

Why feed the fire for other millionaires when I can be one myself?

The information you need has never been more accessible.

Of all the resources, there's nothing better than earnings conference calls. If you're not listening to these things and breaking them down like game tape -- reading between the lines -- you're not really investing.

Lots of investors dog conference calls.

There is an often long-and-drawn-out segment where the bean counter relays a bunch of numbers (often, you can learn a thing or two). On occasion, you get a CFO worthy of your time (see, e.g., Peter Oppenheimer at Apple ( AAPL)).

It's the qualitative stuff that captures me, though. That's where I get most of my value.

Listening to the tone of an executive's voice. Identifying or confirming themes across several calls from the same or different companies.

Consider big media.

Over the last few days, we had several key reports, including announcements from News Corp ( NWSA), Time Warner ( TWX), CBS ( CBS) and Disney ( DIS).

Swallow some of executive speak from each call, culled from notes I took while listening to the Webcasts at each company's investor relations Web site.

CBS

And so this putting the prior seasons of currently on-the-air shows, that's not just a Netflix-type of arrangement, that's across a number of these partners or ...

... the great news is all these deals are non-exclusive. But once again, we're not going to take the entire schedule and put it on. We're going to pick and choose the shows that we think (A) are already sold into syndication; or (B) we think that could help us in terms of raising ratings ... when you look at what we have on the air and all the seasons that are not streamed, that could be a sizable amount of money over the next couple of years.

Time Warner

... and in addition, this quarter, we recognized over $100 million in SVOD (streaming video on demand) revenue, primarily from deals with Netflix and Amazon Prime. And that means that on a year-to-date basis, signed SVOD deals have now risen to be more than $250 million of revenue this year.

Disney

We're in business with Netflix, we're in business with others, and we'll probably continue to be in business with those and new entrants in the marketplace.

Theme #1

Big media should, at the very least, kiss Netflix ( NFLX) afterwards.

It doesn't really matter which executive said it, but each excerpt from Disney, Time Warner and CBS talks about massive revenue derived from licensing deals with Netflix and other streaming companies.

It's gravy money for big media. But when does the party stop or how far will they go -- as in, how much more content will they give up -- to keep the party rocking? Key questions to ask.

News Corp

... in terms of sports ... some of the recent deals ... we've just signed and really like ... in the US the baseball and NASCAR deals ... We think sports ... are increasingly important ... in a world with more and more choices and ... technologies ...

Time Warner

... we think we're in very good position with the sports rights we have ... We are well positioned for -- to deal with the renewal of the sports that we already carry, including NBA ... if an NFL package came up ... we would consider it, but we'd only do something of that size if we were confident that we could monetize it ...

CBS

... the production team behind 60 Minutes will be launching a new sports magazine on Showtime called 60 Minutes Sports in January as well. By the way, that's what I call synergy, CBS News, CBS Sports and Showtime all working together.

Speaking of sports, the Summer Olympics helped drive strong results in our Outdoor international business in the third quarter. Even with the challenging European economy, our international division posted a double-digit revenue increase.

Theme #2

Pretty simple. The media networks with live sports programming will win, as "appointment viewing" continues to die out.

The CBS comment about "synergy" between CBS News, CBS Sports and Showtime speaks volumes about the position of strength major media conglomerates operate from, particularly when you compare them to fledgling outlets such as Netflix.

As the world becomes more mobile, digital and on-demand, companies such as CBS, Time Warner, News Corp and Disney call the shots. They dictate the trajectory of the broad space. That makes them screaming buys, particularly as all four names have pulled back from recent 52-week highs.

By taking the time to scour these conference calls, it's much easier to weave macro narratives together and make sense of what's happening in the sector and at individual companies.

It's homework. It's hard work. But it's fun. And it's worth it.

At the time of publication, Rocco Pendola was long AAPL and NWSA.

Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

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