A broad view of stock-market media indexes shows rising fortunes last year -- up 20% on the Dow Jones U.S. Broadcasting/Entertainment (to a 1,922 index); and 21% higher on the U.S. Media Index (to 1,286).
First, the positive. Traditional media companies registered improvements: Walt Disney was up 25% to $181.08 on the year, while Comcast Corp. was 17% higher at $52.40, Charter Communications was up 36% to $661.55, and Altice USA gained 38% more to $37.87.
Those three companies -- Comcast, Charter, Altice -- benefited in large part from their broadband/digital businesses, especially in an at-home pandemic world. Disney? Well, it’s more than just movie and TV content. In additional, its main streaming business, Disney+, rocketed higher results.
Of course, a real big winners' list wouldn't be complete without showing off where digital media/technology rose: Facebook growing 33% to $273.16; Apple 81% higher to $132.80; Netflix up 67% to $540.73; and Google showing a 27% gain to $1,752.
Other digital media with a heavy connected TV/streaming advertising focus did well, with Roku 148% higher to $332.02, The Trade Desk ascending 215% to $801.00, and Magnite 276% higher to $30.71, and Twitter rising 69% to $54.15.
More traditional, pure-play (at the moment) media content companies that lost ground included ViacomCBS, down 11% to $37.26; Fox Corp., sinking 21% to $28.88; Discovery, down 8% to $30.09; and AMC Networks, losing 9% to $35.77. Radio/audio-based company, iHeartmedia went 23% lower to $12.98 for the year.
We won’t discuss cinema theater-chain stocks, except to note that the big ones were down a massive 49% to 70% this year.
Big TV station groups have had a rough time of it too, despite a booming political ad market and even with the promise of a new technology-based transmission standard to compete with digital. Nexstar Media Group was down 7% to $109.19, while Sinclair Broadcast Group was 5% lower to $31.85 and Tegna Inc. lost 16% to $13.95.
Many traditional media companies that took it on the chin in 2020 also have small, streaming businesses. But are they enough to carry an entire company five or 10 years from now?
Not everything works -- even in digital. After five years of operation, Sony Corp. pulled PlayStation Vue, its virtual pay TV provider, in January. Profit margins for that business remain thin.
In addition, there were other digital platforms to avoid -- say a mobile platform designed for consumers to view short 8- to 10-minute TV episodes while waiting at bank or grocery store. Keeping with the brand-name service, stemming from the words “quick bites,” Quibi made a fast exit, with its $1.8 billion in investor money disappearing as fast as a 10-second TV promo.