Capitalizing On The Upfront Market -- As An Investor? Harder Clues To Sift Through

Looking for that big investor play on TV stocks in this upfront market? You’ll need to look harder.

Perhaps the most identifiable TV stock -- that of CBS Corp. -- is now less attached to the whims of advertising market oscillations. representing just short of 60% of all CBS’ revenues. CBS is now pivoting to a more diverse streams of revenue: retransmission fees, reverse transmission revenues from stations, digital video revenue, and more traditional TV program license deals.

CBS stock is now trading around $57 a share after peaking at $67 in early April.  Still, it is up versus a year ago, when CBS was around $47 -- just around the time the upfront advertising market was starting.

It’s a bit harder to track advertising-related activity to stock prices for bigger, more diversified media companies and their networks-- Comcast (NBCUniversal), Walt Disney (ABC) and 21st Century Fox (Fox). But some other companies can offer a better picture.

Viacom, for example, was at its 52-week yearly low last June -- around the time of upfront advertising market was moving -- trading at $64. Now it is a high $83.69, just off its $90 level in mid-March.

Analyzing somewhat smaller cable groups, Scripps Network Interactive was at $64 a share in June of last year. It then went up to $86 at the beginning of 2014 and now is at $75 -- also still up from a year ago.

Cable networks are estimated to see slight volume dollar increases in the upfront, with broadcast networks projecting virtually the same upfront revenue as a year ago. And both look to grab anywhere from 4% to 7% increases when it comes to price per thousand viewers (CPMs).

The upfront advertising market has increasingly been viewed as stock prices are -- as futures markets. The upfront shows where TV pricing/volume is going, and where marketers can see a hedge against TV price inflation. That still seems to be the case.  For now.

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