Shares of the Silver Spring, Maryland-based cable TV company fell nearly 5% on Tuesday following its first-ever investor's day despite touting a three-year growth forecast tied to a series of announcements about new content and digital distribution initiatives. The decline extended the stock's 12-month slide to 30%.
The drop in Discovery's stock price came amid assurances from Discovery CEO David Zaslav that the company was poised for long-term growth based on a stable U.S. business and rapid international expansion.
"For the next three years, based on even our worst-case scenario, we will show growth here in the U.S. And I feel good about where we are," Zaslav said, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
But like other cable TV networks, Discovery faces a growing challenge from the rise in cord-cutting and the audience shift to streaming video alternatives like Netflix (NFLX) - Get Report , Hulu and Amazon (NFLX) - Get Report Prime Video. Ratings across national cable networks fell 9% last year, triple the decline in 2013, according to Nielsen data.
Those trends threaten Discovery's underlying business model based on a dual revenue stream of advertising and carriage fees from cable service providers.
"Any media company with that profile is extremely exposed to secular decline on the advertising side and a reshuffling of the deck when it comes to terms and value on the carriage side," noted Tim Hanlon, CEO of The Vertere Group, an advisory firm focused on the media and technology sectors.
Zaslav sought to address those concerns on Tuesday by pointing out that ad sales will increase in the mid-single digits in the current quarter, which he called "the beginning of a turn." And even in a weakened ad market, he added that fee increases locked in during recent carriage deals would bolster the company.
Discovery also released a three-year financial forecast, which included guidance of "low double-digit" free cash flow compound annual growth for the 2015-2018 period. It also projected low-double digit earnings growth for full-year 2015 and for 2015-2018, excluding currency effects.
But Macquarie Securities analyst Amie Yong suggested investors were disappointed by the earnings guidance, which she said was slightly lower than what Wall Street had expected. She issued a research note last week reiterating an Outperform rating on Discovery and a 12-month price target of $35.
In her note, Yong argued that international expansion would be the key to the company's growth. To that end, Discovery in July announced acquiring all European broadcast right to the Olympic games between 2018 and 2024 for $1.46 billion. Paving the way for the deal was its $1.12 billion acquisition of Eurosport last year.
Discovery on Tuesday highlighted the Olympic deal, along with other overseas moves including the launch of a TV Everywhere offering in Latin America called Discovery Kids Play. Among digital ventures, it pointed to Eurosport Player, a streaming app with 300, 000 subscribers, and the expansion of its Dplay streaming service within Europe.
One thing Zaslav didn't underscore Tuesday was his compensation. He was the highest-paid U.S. chief executive last year, taking home $156 million.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.