No matter who wins the White House next month, one victor already is apparent: the media companies that are reaping billions of dollars in political advertising.
However, though the well-known media blue chips garner all the attention on CNBC, there is one under-the-radar media stock that stands out: Scripps Networks Interactive (SNI) . Shares of this company are a timely bet on growth.
Media stocks are among the most alluring long-term investments as legacy empires such as Scripps Networks Interactive, Time Warner, 21st Century Fox and Walt Disney embrace a brave new world of digital applications and online advertising. Meanwhile, ad dollars from the Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump cage fight have been a shot of steroids for these old media companies that are still striving to reinvent themselves.
When the vicious attack ads die down and the winner of the White House is announced on Nov. 8, an estimated $4.4 billion will have been spent on television ads for the 2016 election, up from $3.8 billion in 2012, according to projections from Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group.
Indeed, the media's race for ratings has been a major catalyst for Trump's telegenic rise, and, if the polls are to be believed, imminent fall.
Political advertising is a high-margin windfall for U.S. media companies, sweetened by increases in overall advertising due to economic growth. The analyst consensus is that U.S. advertising media spending will grow 5.2% this year, compared with an estimated 1.9% growth in 2015.
Investors are catching on to the appeal of media stocks, as other sectors such as real estate, telecommunications and utilities lose steam in the face of rising interest rates.
Technological evolution is driving acquisitions and mergers in the media sector, whereby social media, telecom, and traditional entertainment and news are merging into single integrated entities.
Verizon Communications is in talks to buy struggling Internet giant Yahoo! On Thursday, shares of Time Warner, which owns CNN, jumped 4.7% after news reports revealed that the company was engaged in merger discussions with AT&T.
But as these media behemoths search for new tactics to remain relevant, Scripps Networks Interactive already serves as an exemplar of how to make all the right moves. The stock is a superb multi-year growth play in a media and publishing environment revolutionized by the 24/7 immediacy of niche television, smartphones and social media.
Scripps Networks Interactive is the result of a 1994 spin-off from E. W. Scripps, which was founded in 1878 under the prosaic name of Penny Press.
E. W. Scripps started out as a Citizen Kane-type operation, built around newspapers, radio and later television. After the spin-off, Scripps Networks Interactive focused on the emerging trend toward lifestyle niches, developing content for Internet satellite radio, mobile and social-media platforms, and television, as well as books and magazines that complement its other media.
Scripps Networks Interactive shrewdly foresaw the Balkanization of media and unveiled a wide variety of lifestyle channels that are highly popular, including the Cooking Channel, the Do-It-Yourself Network, the Food Network, Great American Country, the Home and Garden Channel, and the Travel Channel. The company's channels are brilliant exercises in branding.
The company is scheduled to report third-quarter earnings on Nov. 7.
The analyst consensus estimate is for earnings to come in at 96 cents a share, compared with $1.06 a share a year earlier.
However, for the full year, earnings are slated to reach $5.15 a share, compared with $4.94 a share in 2015. In 2017, earnings are pegged at $5.38 a share.
Among all media companies, Scripps Networks Interactive is the leader in providing lifestyle content that is specifically tailored to ever-changing tastes. That is a highly valuable characteristic in a world of rapidly shifting demographics.
Scripps Networks Interactive's stock has gained more than 15% this year, compared with more than 4% for the S&P 500. Shares of Scripps Networks Interactive trade at about $63.
And yet the stock is cheap, trading at a trailing 12-month price-earnings ratio of 10.83, compared with 18.6 for its industry. Investors should buy shares while they still trade at a discount.
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