Disney’s ESPN Streaming Service Surpasses One Million Subscribers

Disney’s ESPN Streaming Service Surpasses One Million Subscribers

Over the last several quarters, one of the few blemishes to be had with Disney has been ESPN as chord cutters moved away from the sports programming behemoth. While it took some time for Disney to get its digital offering together, which included some headcount pruning and other cost-saving measures, this past April it launched ESPN+. Priced at $4.99 per month, the service just signed up its one millionth paying subscriber.

This is significant for a few reasons. First, it shows the Content is King aspect of our Digital Lifestyle investing theme remains firmly intact. Second, it shows Disney can win consumer wallets with a streaming service that is value priced compared to some of the other streaming service bundles like those found at Netflix or Hulu. Third, in many ways, this is a test bed for Disney’s other streaming initiatives that will leverage the soon to be acquired Fox content and character library alongside those from other Disney properties such as Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars.

While the haul to be had from those one million ESPN+ subscribers is relatively small relative to Disney’s overall revenue stream, as the subscriber base continues to grow investors will begin to value the company differently. Yes, it will take time – one million is a far cry from the 130 million at Netflix, but Disney has one of the best content libraries to leverage. I’ll continue to watch the progress of ESPN+ as well as the adoption of its other streaming efforts.

 

ESPN said it has signed up more than one million paying subscribers for the streaming service it launched in April, a boost of confidence for majority-owner Walt Disney Co.’s effort to win over cable TV cord-cutters.

The ESPN+ streaming service, priced at $4.99 a month, offers fans hundreds of live Major League Baseball and National Hockey League games, college football and soccer matches from around the world.

It also carries Top Rank Boxing, Ultimate Fighting Championship matchups, and original studio programming like “Detail” hosted by Kobe Bryant. The service doesn’t carry live streams from ESPN’s TV channels.

ESPN has lost millions of subscribers to its cable channels in recent years, stoking concerns on Wall Street about the sports TV juggernaut’s financial health and more broadly about how deeply the cord-cutting phenomenon will hurt the entire pay-TV industry.

In a statement, Mr. Pitaro said “combining sports, technology and the ESPN brand is a very powerful combination, and we are just getting started.”

ESPN+ has been a big part of Disney’s efforts to take a piece of the burgeoning streaming economy. Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger has said that the company’s pending acquisitionof 21st Century Fox Inc. is a foundational part of its plan to take on Netflix Inc. globally.

ESPN+ faces an array of competitors. Other media companies like AT&T Inc.’s Turner andCBS Corp. have released sports-focused streaming competitors, while tech companies likeAmazon.com Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. have showed keen interest in competing with ESPN for marquee sports rights.

In March, longtime Disney corporate strategy executive Kevin Mayer took over a new streaming and international division that will oversee both ESPN+ and a new family-focused streaming service that Disney will launch in 2019.

Source: ESPN Streaming Service Surpasses One Million Subscribers – WSJ

All those streaming services can add up to serious $$

All those streaming services can add up to serious $$

We continue to hear more and more about chord cutting as consumers increasingly to over the top and streaming vidoe services and they shift how, where and when they consume that content. Given the Content is King perspective that we have, it comes as little surprise to see that consumers are utilizing multiple platforms because they want the content they want – plain and simple.

While it’s one thing to have one or two streaming services, as companies like Apple and Disney/ESPN follow Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and others  the content game,  it means consumers could very well see their montly content bill soon rival the monthly cable bill they were looking to avoid. If we game it out, it means either consumers will swallow and pay those bills or as we have seen with in other industries market share will consolidate around less than a handful of providors. In many ways this will be the same evolution the internet went through over the last decade plus, the only difference is it will be unfolding not on the PC but across all of our other connected devices.

No matter what type of media consumer you are, there’s a difference between paying $13.99 per month for Netflix and the thousands of dollars you will be paying per year when you add up all the streaming services you will probably want to subscribe to. And that doesn’t even include the $40 to $300+ per month you will have to spend on broadband access. Let’s have a look at the various ways you might spend your streaming media dollars.

Movies, TV, and Video Streaming Services … Oh, My!

The rise of video streaming services has given us a world of alternatives to traditional cable and satellite video providers. Whether you’re a cord-cutter (ditching cable in favor of streaming services), a cord never (someone who’s never paid a cable provider for monthly services), or a cord plus (someone who pays for cable plus services like Netflix or Hulu), you’re likely paying for at least some of these services:

  • Netflix – $13.99/month ($10.99/month without 4K)
  • Hulu – $11.99/month ($9.99/month with ads)
  • Amazon Prime Video – $13/month (includes free shipping on Amazon purchases)
  • CBS All-Access – $9.99/month ($5.99/month with ads)
  • HBO Now – $14.99/month
  • Showtime Anytime – $10.99/month
  • Starz Play – $8.99/month
  • YouTube Premium – $11.99/month

What started out as an inexpensive way to replace trips to Blockbuster (or to keep you from buying DVDs) has turned into a battleground for your eyes and your wallet. And if you’ve got TV FOMO? Forget about it. Almost every service offers at least some awesome original content. We are lucky to be living in the Platinum Age of video storytelling.

I paid $99 for the first year of CBS All-Access, just to watch Star Trek: Discovery. Is that a smart financial decision? No! Is it worth it? For me it is, because I am a die-hard Star Trek fan and Discovery is awesome!

What further complicates the issue is the ever-changing landscape of rights ownership. Want to binge Parks and Recreation? Better sign up for Netflix. Oh, it’s on Hulu now? Better pay for that, too. Sure, you could buy the complete series on DVD for less than $50, but are you really going to get up from the couch and walk over to the DVD player 21 times to swap out the discs?

Source: Streaming Sticker Shock – Shelly Palmer

Disney continues to execute as it preps its streaming services

Disney continues to execute as it preps its streaming services

 

After Tuesday’s market close, Content is King investment theme company Walt Disney (DIS) reported stronger than expected March quarter results with EPS besting expectations by $0.14 per share. For the quarter, Disney reported EPS of $1.84 vs the consensus forecast of $1.70 and the $1.50 delivered in the year-ago quarter, which means year over year EPS improved 23%. While better than expected revenue of $14.5 billion for the quarter, up 9% year over year and ahead of the expected $14.1 billion for the quarter, aided the EPS beat so too did the 5% decline in the outstanding share count and the lower tax rate (20.7% vs. 32.3%) in the year-ago quarter.

That revenue and buyback combination offset overall operating profit margin declines that reflected softer margins at the Media Networks (42% of sales, 49% of operating profit) and Consumer Products & Interactive Media (7% of sales, 8% of operating profit) despite solid margin improvement at both Parks & Resorts (34% of sales, 23% of operating profit) and Studio Entertainment (17% of sales, 20% of operating profit).

Sifting through all of the segment results and assessing the below the operating line influences, we find that year over year Disney’s operating profit rose 6% with the business spitting out free cash flow of $3.5 billion, up nearly 50% year over year.

 

More high profile movies are on the way…

It’s pretty much business as usual for Disney, and during the earnings conference call CEO Bob Iger shared an upbeat outlook across the Studio Entertainment and the Parks and Resorts businesses. More specifically for the Studio Entertainment business, on the heels of the newest Avengers film that is breaking box office records, Solo: A Star Wars Story, is generating a lot of interest and strong buzz ahead of its Memorial Day weekend opening. Disney will follow that with a dozen high profile movies over the next 18 months, including Incredibles 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Mary Poppins Returns, Captain Marvel, Dumbo, Avengers 4, Aladdin, Toy Story 4, The Lion King, Frozen 2 and Star Wars Episode IX.

 

…that will drive Disney’s other businesses

With Disney merging its Parks & Resorts business with its Consumer Products business, the new combined entity stands to benefit from the coming onslaught in content from Studio Entertainment across its licensing business as well as new attractions at the Parks. Those new attractions include the Toy Story Land that’s about to open in Florida next month, the one that just opened in Shanghai, updated cruise ships, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open in both Disneyland and Disney World by the end of calendar 2019 plus multiple hotels around the world and new lands in the Paris and Tokyo parks. I see that as more reasons for people to return to the Disney Parks in the coming years.

 

ESPN Plus has launched

Turning to ESPN, the company recently launched its ESPN Plus Service, a streaming sports service, and while it was mum on details given the brief time it’s been in the marketplace, management said it was encouraged by initial results. The team also noted that it recently inked a deal to add UFC content to the Plus service and that it will continue to both invest and license sports content for both live and non-live sports.

 

And about that pending transaction with FOX

In terms of the pending transaction with 21st Century Fox (FOXA), Disney shared that it is still deep in the process, including on the regulatory front, and it could not add more at this time. Even so, Iger went on to share some high-level synergies to be had, particularly from a content side when describing ESPN Plus, Disney’s own direct to consumer streaming service that will launch in late 2019 as well as Hulu of which it will own some 60%. As part of those comments, Iger also answered a lingering question over that Disney branded streaming service – that it will be anchored by Disney, Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars content.

In recent days, Comcast (CMCSA) appears to have thrown its hat back into the ring for the Fox business. I’ll be watching the developments, and what it means for a Disney-Fox combination, which in my view would serve to improve Disney’s content and character library, serving to quickly build a formidable set of direct to consumer streaming services. Next to this is we are waiting to see if the U.S. government approves AT&T’s (T) acquisition of Time Warner (TWX).

Viewing these pending transactions together, we continue to see a transformation when it comes to content creation as well as transmission. I see it as a coming together of our Connected Society investing theme with Content is King to form a new theme in and around our growing digital lifestyle. More on that as I flesh that thought out further in the coming weeks.

 

Bottom line – Disney is doing what it does

To sum it up, Disney is doing what it does – generating tentpole franchise content at the box office and then using that same content to increasingly fueling its consumer products and parks business. As Disney continues to do this, in the coming quarter Disney will look to expand its streaming services, and if successful those subscription businesses are successful, it will add greater visibility and predictability to the company’s revenue and earnings stream as well as cash generation that will be used to buyback shares and re-invest in the company’s businesses. Should that come to pass, Disney will be tapping into our Connected Society investing theme in a way similar to Netflix (NFLX) and I suspect investors will look to re-think valuation multiples for the shares vs. the current multiple of 14.5x 2018 earnings that are poised to grow 21% year over year.

  • Our long-term price target on DIS shares remains $120.

 

 

WEEKLY ISSUE: The Shakeout from Market Volatility on the Select List

WEEKLY ISSUE: The Shakeout from Market Volatility on the Select List

 

 

It’s Wednesday, February 7, and the stock market is coming off one of its wild rides it has seen in the last few days. I shared my thoughts on the what’s and why’s behind that yesterday with subscribers as well as with Charles Payne, the host of Making Money with Charles Payne on Fox Business – if you missed that, you can watch it here.

As investors digest the realization the Fed could boost interest rates more than it has telegraphed – something very different than we’ve experienced in the last several years – the domestic stock market appears to be finding its footing as gains over the last few days are being recouped. Lending a helping hand is the corporate bond market, which, in contrast to the turbulent moves of late in the domestic stock market, signals that credit investors remain comfortable with corporate credit fundamentals, the outlook for earnings and the ability for companies to absorb higher interest rates.

My perspective is this expectation reset for domestic stocks follows a rapid ascent over the last few months, and it’s removed some of the froth from the market as valuations levels have drifted back to earth from the rare air they recently inhabited.

 

Among Opportunity This New Market Dynamic Brings, There Have Been Casualties

While this offers some new opportunities for both new positions on the Tematica Investing Select List as well as the opportunity to scale into some positions at better prices once the sharp swings in stocks have abated some, it also means there have been some casualties.

We were stopped out of our shares in Cashless Consumption investment theme company, USA Technologies (USAT) when our $7.50 stop loss was triggered yesterday. While the shares snapped back along with the market rally yesterday, we were none the less stopped out, with the overall position returning more than 65% since we added them to the Select List last April. For those keeping track, that compares to the 15.3% return in the S&P 500 at the same time so, yeah, we’re not exactly broken up over things. We will put USAT shares on the Tematica Contender List and look to revisit them after the company reports earnings tomorrow (Thursday, Feb. 8).

That’s the second Select List position to have been stopped out in the last several days. The other was AXT Inc. (AXTI) last week, and as a reminder that position returned almost 27% vs. a 15% move in the S&P 500. Again, not too shabby!

The last week has brought a meaningful dip in shares of Costco Wholesale (COST). On recent episodes of our Cocktail Investing Podcast, Tematica Chief Macro Strategist Lenore Hawkins and I have discussed the lack of pronounced wage gains for nonsupervisory workers (82% of the US workforce) paired with rising credit card and other debt. That combination likely means we haven’t seen the last of the Cash-Strapped Consumer investment theme — of the key thematic tailwinds we see behind Costco’s business. While COST shares are still up more than 15% since being added to the Select List, we see the recent 5% drop in the shares as an opportunity for those who remained on the sidelines before the company reports its quarterly earnings in early March.

  • Our price target on Costco Wholesale (COST) shares remains $200.

 

 

Remaining Patient on AMAT, OLED and AAPL

Two other names on the Tematica Investing Select List have fallen hard of late, in part due to the market’s gyrations, but also over lingering Apple (AAPL) and other smartphone-related concerns. We are referring to Disruptive Technologies investment theme companies Applied Materials (AMAT) and Universal Display (OLED). As we shared last week, it increasingly looks that Apple’s smartphone volumes, especially for the higher priced, higher margin iPhone X won’t be cut as hard as had been rumored. Moreover, current chatter suggests Apple will once again introduce three new iPhone models this year, two of which are slated to utilize organic light emitting diode displays.

Odds are iPhone projections will take time to move from chatter to belief to fact. In the meantime, we are seeing other smartphone vendors adopt organic light emitting diode displays, and as we saw at CES 201 TV adoption is going into full swing this year. That ramping demand also bodes for Applied Materials (AMAT), which is also benefitting from capital spending plans in China and elsewhere as chip manufacturers contend with rising demand across a growing array of connected devices and data centers.

  • Our price target on Apple (AAPL) remains $200
  • Our price target on Universal Display (OLED) remains $225
  • Our price target on Applied Materials (AMAT) remains $70

 

The 5G Network Buildout is Gaining Momentum – Good News for NOK and DY

This past week beleaguered mobile carrier, Sprint (S), threw its hat into the 5G network ring announcing that it will join AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ), and T-Mobile USA (TMUS) in launching a commercial 5G network in 2019. That was news was a solid boost to our Nokia (NOK) shares, which rose 15% last week. The company remains poised to see a pick-up in infrastructure demand as well as IP licensing for 5G technology, and I’ll continue to watch network launch details as well as commentary from Contender List resident Dycom Industries (DY), whose business focuses on the actual construction of such networks.

Several months ago, I shared that we tend to see a pack mentality with the mobile carriers and new technologies – once one makes a move, the others tend to follow rather than risk a customer base that thinks they are behind the curve. In today’s increasingly Connected Society that chews increasingly on data and streaming services, that thought can be a deathblow to a company’s customer count.

  • Our price target on Nokia (NOK) shares remains $8.50
  • I continue to evaluate upgrading Dycom (DY) shares to the Select List, but I am inclined to wait until we pass the winter season given the impact of weather on the company’s construction business.

 

Disney Offers Some Hope for Its ESPN Unit

Last night Disney (DIS) announced its December quarter results while the overall tone was positive, the stand out item to me was the announcement of the new ESPN streaming service being introduced in the next few months that has a price tag of $4.99 a month. For that, ESPN+ customers will get “thousands” of live events, including pro baseball, hockey and soccer, as well as tennis, boxing, golf and college sports not available on ESPN’s traditional TV networks. Alongside the service, Disney will unveil a new, streamlined version of the ESPN app, which is slated to include greater levels of customization.

In my view, all of this lays the groundwork for Disney’s eventual launch of its own Disney streaming content service in 2019, but it also looks to change the conversation around ESPN proper, a business that continues to lose subscribers. Not surprising, given that Comcast (CMCA) continues to report cable TV subscriber defections. One of the key components to watch will be the shake-out of the rights to stream live games from the major professional leagues — the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA. Currently, ESPN is on the hook for about $4 billion a year in rights fees to those three leagues alone — not to mention the rights fees committed to college athletics. Those deals, however, include only the rights to broadcast those games on cable networks or on the ESPN app to customers that can prove they have a cable subscription, not cord-cutters. So the question will be how quick will customers jump on board to pay $5 a month for lower-level games, or will they be able to cut deals with the major professional sports leagues to include some of their games as well.

Nevertheless, I continue to see all of these developments as Disney moving its content business in step with our Connected Society investing theme, which should be an additive element to the Content is King investment theme tailwind Disney continues to ride. With that in mind, we are seeing rave reviews for the next Marvel movie – The Black Panther – that will be released on Feb. 16. The company’s more robust 2018 movie slate kicks off in earnest a few months later.

  • We will continue to be patient investors with Disney, and our price target on the shares remains $125

 

 

 

Remaining patient in the face of more near-term pain for Disney shares

Remaining patient in the face of more near-term pain for Disney shares

In recent weeks, shares of Content is King company Walt Disney (DIS) have drifted lower as the company shared it is pulling its content from Netflix (NFLX) and embarking on its own streaming services for Disney, Marvel and Star Wars content as well as ESPN. This move brings more than a few questions at a time when candidly there is no clear cut catalyst for the shares. Investors don’t like uncertainty and hence the slow drift lower in the shares to the recent $101-$102 level, that is in line with our entry points in the shares, from $110-$111 just over a month ago.

Given new developments that include CEO Bob Iger sharing that Disney’s 2017 EPS would be flat year over year, vs. consensus expectations that were looking for year on year growth near 2.5%, and the impact of Hurricane Irma on its Florida operations, we expect DIS shares could come under additional pressure in the near-term. One strategy would be to exit the shares, another is to recognize that in the next few months Disney will once again be back at the box office as well as opening new attractions at is very profitable parks business. As a reminder, the company recently opened Frozen land and is slated to open Toy Story land in 2018 followed by Star Wars Land in 2019. These new and branded attractions are likely to entice former park visitors as well as attract new ones.

As the water and impact of Irma subside, we will look to use any incremental near-term pain in DIS shares to improve our cost basis, remembering the company had a whopper of a share buyback program in place exiting the June quarter. On that corresponding earnings conference call, Disney signaled it would repurchase between $2.2-$3.2 billion of stock in the current quarter. Odds are that effort will help backstop the shares in the coming days. Our bias is to use any pullback that brings the shares closer to the $90 level to improve the positions cost basis. Recognizing the potential impact of Irma, and remaining questions on its proprietary streaming business, however, we are reducing our price target to $120 from $125.

  • While we expect further near-term disruptions at Disney (DIS) owing to Hurricane Irma, we will remain patient with the shares.
  • We are trimming our price target to $120 from $125.
Tencent set to Stream 2017, 2018 and 2019 NFL games in China

Tencent set to Stream 2017, 2018 and 2019 NFL games in China

We’re not only seeing a blurring of our Content is King and Connected Society investing themes here in the U.S., we’re seeing in China as well in a deal between Tencent and the NFL. Live news and sports were two of the holdouts in streaming content, but with Google (GOOGL) adding streaming news to YouTube;  Amazon (AMZN), and Facebook (FB) streaming live sporting events this fall, and Disney (DIS) bringing a streaming ESPN service to market next year we think the TV broadcast only business is resembling the newspaper industry around 2001-2002.

 

Tencent is to become the exclusive live streaming partner in China for the National Football League’s American football games. The social media, games and streaming giant will air live and on-demand selected preseason games, all Thursday Night Football, Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football games, as well as selected Sunday afternoon games, the playoffs, the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl for the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons. The deal also includes non-game NFL content.

NFL live games and content will be available through Tencent’s NFL sections on both mobile and desktop terminals including Tencent Sports, QQ.com, Tencent Video, Kuai Bao, Penguin Live, the Tencent Sports app, the Tencent Video app, the Tencent News app, as well as its social networking services, QQ and WeChat. At the end of June, the combined monthly active users of Tencent’s social communications platforms, Weixin and WeChat, was over 960 million.

Source: Tencent to Stream NFL in China | Variety

Remaining Opportunistic as the Market Gets Cautious

Remaining Opportunistic as the Market Gets Cautious

After taking the prior week off on my sojourn to Singapore to present at INVESTFair 2017, I’m back. Take it from me, not only was the food fantastic as I put on several extra pounds, but Singapore is far ahead of us when it comes to our Cashless Consumption investing theme. Tematica’s Chief Macro Strategist, Lenore Hawkins, and I talked about this on our Cocktail Investing podcast recently, but that level of activity keeps us bullish on USA Technology (USAT) shares on the Tematica Select List.

Earlier this week, we posted comments on Content is King player Disney (DIS)’s recent announcement it will look to shun Netflix (NFLX) and enter the streaming content market gun, rather than remaining a content bullet, and scaled further into shares of Food with Integrity company Amplify Snacks (BETR). We also sent over out latest high-level thoughts on the market in this week’s Monday Morning Kickoff – if you missed it, you can read it here.

As a quick recap since our last Tematica Investing, we’ve seen a far more cautious attitude enter the market following the back and forth with the U.S. and North Korea. At the same time, we’re also seeing some fatigue as even solid earnings beats like the one yesterday from Home Depot (HD) are not having the usual or expected stock price reaction. While we could toss it up to the fact that we’re entering the back half of August — one of the traditionally slower times of the year as people sneak it that last round of summer vacation — there could be something else going on.

Our view here at Tematica is investors are taking stock of not only the vector and velocity of the domestic economy, but also the growing political unease and are looking ahead to what’s coming down the barrel in September: the unveiling of President Trump’s tax reform, Congress dealing with the debt ceiling and potentially the start of the Fed’s balance sheet unwinding. All that during what has historically been one of the worst months for the domestic stock market. We’d add in that September is full of investor conferences, and after the usual August quiet, we suspect investors will be listening closely to these upcoming company presentations to fine tune back-half of the year expectations.

So, while we’ve seen a bit of a rebound in the market so far this week following last week’s sell off, we’re inclined to see the near-term waters remaining a tad choppy. Let’s remember, trading volumes tend to be a tad light this time of year and that can exacerbate the swings in stock prices. The net result is that we will tread carefully in the coming weeks, but we will still be opportunistic like we were with the buying of additional Amplify Snacks (BETR) shares yesterday, a move that reduced the overall cost basis on the Tematica Select List.

 

Checking in on July Retail Sales – Looks Great for Amazon, Alphabet, UPS and Costco

As mentioned in this week’s Monday Morning Kickoff, there is a modest amount of economic data to be had this week, including yesterday’s July Retail Sales Report. Overall it was a positive report with core retail sales, which exclude auto, gasoline station, building materials, and food services and drinking places sales, up 0.5 percent. Moreover, the June decline of 0.1 percent was revised to an uptick of 0.1 percent. Digging into the July report, we found a pick-up in digital commerce, which likely reflects the Back to School shopping season as well as ongoing efforts by Amazon (AMZN) and others to grab consumer wallet share. Let’s remember that Amazon’s own would-be shopping holiday – Prime Day – fell in early July and likely was partly responsible for the strong rebound in digital shopping during the month.

Year over year, Nonstore retailers (Commerce Dept. speak for digital commerce sales) rose 11.5 percent in July, once again making the category the strongest performer. We see this as boding well for not only our Amazon shares but also for United Parcel Service (UPS) — those packages have to get to your front door somehow — as well as Alphabet (GOOGL) given its Google Shopping service as well as the company’s Search business.

Getting back to the July Retail Sales Report, most other categories were positive for the month, save for Sporting Goods, Electronics & Appliances and Department Stores. The month’s data helps put some understanding around Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS) slashing its 2017 outlook, but we also think that company is poised to hit the headwind aspect of our Connected Society investing theme following Nike’s (NKE) recent linkage with Amazon. Said another way, we continue to see a bleak outlook for traditional brick & mortar retailers as consumer products and apparel companies, especially branded ones, embrace Amazon and other digital logistic businesses.

Finally, the July Retail Sales Report put some much-needed context around Costco Wholesale’s (COST) July sales report. As a reminder, Costco reported its July sales increased 6.0 percent in the US, and 6.2 percent across the entire geographic footprint. That compares to just a 2 percent increase for General Merchandise stores as well as Grocery vs. July 2016. Additionally, Costco continued to open up new warehouse locations during the month, reaching 736 locations compared to 729 at the end of April. Paired with the recent membership fee increase, this expanding footprint should be a positive impact for the all-important and high margin member fee revenue stream.

Our price target on Amazon (AMZN) shares remains $1,150.
• Our price target on Alphabet (GOOGL) shares remains $1,050.
• Our price target on United Parcel Service (UPS) shares remains $122.
• Our price target on Costco Wholesale (COST) remains $190.

 

On Deck – Earnings from Applied Materials

Even though we are in the dog days of summer, we still have a few companies left to report their quarterly results. One of them is Applied Materials (AMAT), and that event happens later this week. Following a bullish report from competitor Lam Research (LRCX), we expect solid results to be had. Despite the move lower over the last several weeks, the outlook for semiconductor capital equipment remains bright given the expanding reach of chips into a variety of end markets as well as demand for next-generation memory and display solutions.

This includes the same currently capacity-constrained organic light emitting diode display market, which is seeing rising demand dynamics from the smartphone, TV, wearables and automotive industries. And yes, this same demand function that is benefitting the shares of Universal Display (OLED) on the Tematica Select List. On Applied’s earnings call we’ll be listening for equipment order as well as overall demand tone for this disruptive display technology to determine as best we can how many quarters

One final demand driver that should result in a positive quarter for AMAT — ramping capacity in China. The potential wrinkle with this is we’ll need to be mindful of exchange rates and the impact on the company’s business, but all in all, we suspect the company will deliver a solid quarter with an upbeat outlook.

On a side note, odds are Applied will discuss factors that are driving chip demand and therefore incremental demand for its semiconductor capital equipment. Likely subjects include data centers, the Internet of Things, the Connected Car and other markets. The one we’ll be listening to given the Tematica Select List position in AXT Inc. (AXTI) and Dycom (DY) will be the smartphone market — which is entering its seasonally strong part of the year — and any commentary on 5G network deployments. Other 5G commentary points to a pick-up in testing by Verizon Communications (VZ) and AT&T (T) as well as Apple being granted a license to test 5G wireless services. Both of these developments reinforce our bullish view on both AXT and DY shares on the Tematica Select List.

Our price target on Applied Materials (AMAT) remains $55.
• Our price target on AXT Inc. (AMAT) remains $11.
• Our price target on Dycom Industries (DY) remains $115.

 

Housekeeping Items

There are no housekeeping items this week, other than to remind you to check TematicaResearch.com as we post more thematic and macro commentary in the coming days. And while the Cocktail Investing podcast is on hiatus until the last week of August, feel free to revisit some of the past episodes here.

 

 

 

The Tematica Take on Disney’s Pending New Streaming Service

The Tematica Take on Disney’s Pending New Streaming Service

We expect Disney shares are likely to trade sideways over the next several weeks as the market continues to digest the recently announced moves by the House of Mouse. We, on the other hand, continue to see our Content is King investment theme providing significant tailwinds to the business, and as such we’re suspending our stop-loss and will instead look to use further share weakness to improve our cost position.

 

Our Content is King investment theme has been getting plenty of attention over the last week. It started with Disney (DIS) announcing it would look to sever its relationship with Netflix (NFLX) as it plans to launch its own streaming services for ESPN and Disney content in 2018 and 2019, respectively. During the company’s 2Q 2017 earnings call, in which it discussed its better than expected quarterly results, it also offered some insight into its plans around this planned streaming service:

  • The new Disney content service will become the exclusive home in the U.S. for subscription video-on-demand viewing of the newest live action and animated movies from Disney and Pixar, beginning with the 2019 slate, which includes Toy Story 4, the sequel to Frozen, and The Lion King from Disney live-action, along with other highly-anticipated movies.
  • Disney will be making a substantial investment in original movies, original television series, and short form content for this platform, produced by our studio, Disney Interactive, and Disney Channel teams.
  • Subscribers will also have access to a vast collection of films and television content from our library.

As part of this move, Disney increased its ownership position in BAMTech, but came up short when it came to specifics about the launch of the planned service. You’ll notice what was not discussed, which was Disney’s Marvel and Lucasfilm properties, both of which are staples at Netflix, including several Marvel TV properties like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and others. We chalk this up to Disney still figuring it out as it goes, but we expect more details to emerge in the coming months.

We understand Disney’s move for greater control over the distribution of its content as consumers increasingly shun cable and satellite bundles in favor of embracing the cutting the cord aspect of our Connected Society investing theme to watch what they want, where they want and when they want. Obviously, this move by Disney adds a layer of investment and uncertainty into the mix as it raises many questions at a time when the company is shy on details. That said, we know Disney is extremely careful in making its moves and usually has a well thought out, cohesive plan that leverages without sacrificing its content.

As we and others digest this initiative, with no major catalyst pending until the company resumes its run at the box office later this year, we expect Disney shares are likely to trade sideways over the next several weeks. We do suspect Disney will opportunistically use its share buyback program to its advantage in the coming weeks, which should help support the shares in the coming weeks. On the June quarter earnings call, Disney shared it had repurchased 22.3 million shares for $2.4 billion during the April-June 2017 period. Over the last nine months (let’s remember Disney is one of those “funny fiscals” that ends its business year in September), the company has repurchased 64.3 million shares for approximately $6.8 billion and shared it intends to end the current fiscal year repurchasing $9-$10 billion. Some quick sandbox math tells us that means Disney could buy back $2.2 to $3.2 billion worth of stock in the current quarter. Given the fall off in the shares of late, we’re inclined to think such activity will skew toward the higher end of the range.

In keeping with our Content is King theme, we recognize the vast library of characters and content under the Disney hood. As the company returns to a more normalized presence at the box office beginning in the December quarter and continuing through 2018, we’ll be patient with the shares.

We’ll be pulling the lens back on several Content is King announcements, including Netflix buying comic-book company MillarWorld as well as inking an exclusive deal with the creator Disney/ABC’s Scandal Shonda Rhimes, and Facebook (FB) angling to attack both the TV advertising spending stream and Alphabet’s (GOOGL) YouTube at the same time. We’ll have our thematic thoughts on what these moves and others mean for our Content is King theme on TematicaResearch.com shortly.

  • Our price target on DIS shares remains $125.
  • We will suspend our $100 stop loss at this time, as we’re inclined to use any incremental weakness to improve our cost basis in the position.

 

Barron’s Gets Behind our OLED, AMAT and DIS Positions

Barron’s Gets Behind our OLED, AMAT and DIS Positions

Over the weekend, among its many articles Barron’s published two pertaining to several positions on the Tematica Select List — Disruptive Technology plays Universal Display (OLED), Applied Materials (AMAT) and Content is King company Disney (DIS). In our view, each of these articles is bullish for the corresponding shares, but even so let’s review:

In “Corning, Samsung: China’s OLED Spend May Be Big Trouble in 2018, Says Bernstein”  following conversation with 23 companies and industry experts, investment firm Bernstein share their view that, “China is a big force in a rise in spending for display technologies, particularly, OLED, which is taking over from LCD, and also for spending on semiconductors, with the move to so-called 3-D NAND chips.”  The authors of the report go on to say:

“OLED capacity ramp-ups from the Chinese players are even more aggressive than we thought, and hence equipment and material players are benefiting from this ‘OLED capex cycle’. On the semiconductor equipment side, we are seeing a similar story – rising capex for 3D NAND coming from China will translate into good demand for semi equipment makers. Finally, for memory, DRAM supply is tight for now, so read-through is positive for DRAM pricing through 2017.”

We certainly see this rather positive and confirming for our investment thesis on Universal Display and Applied Materials. While many have and will likely continue to focus on Apple (AAPL) and its next iPhone iteration, we see a larger shift going on, much like the one we saw more than a decade ago when light emitting diode (LED) technology exploded. As LED applications expanded from mobile phones and backlighting for LCD TVs to automotive lighting, Cree (CREE) shares took off, which was very positive for our readers at the time since we had a Buy rating on the shares at the time. This time around, we see the same happening for Universal Display shares, especially since we see Universal’s business benefitting from its intellectual property licensing business. In our view that makes the company more like Qualcomm (QCOM) than Cree.

Turning to the second article, “Disney’s Iger On Movies, Parks, ESPN” the author hits a number of points that power our investment thesis — an improving movie slate and recent park price increases that should drive revenue higher this year. The article also bangs a familiar drum that is ESPN, which continues to hemorrhage customers as more and more cut the cord, but it also mentions that Disney is expected to launch its own over the top ESPN service later this year as well as ESPN landing on other over the top services like our own AT&T’s (T) DirectTV NOW. As we recently shared, Disney is also focusing on cost control inside ESPN, including laying off TV, radio, and online personalities as part of a plan to “trim $100 million from the 2016 budget and $250 million in 2017.”

Getting back to Disney’s film business, its latest release, live-action “Beauty and the Beast” delivered a record-setting weekend box office opening with $170 million. Not only was this a record-setting March opening weekend, but the seventh largest domestic opening of all-time. Internationally, “Beauty and the Beast” delivered an estimated $180 million in ticket sales from 44 material markets for an estimated $350 million global opening, making it the #14 on the all-time best list. We can already see the Disney merchandise flying off the shelves now and later this year when the DVD and video on demand releases hit just in time for year-end holiday shopping. Much the way Disney is adding Frozen and Star Wars franchise attractions to its park, we would not be surprised to see a Beauty and the Beast addition as well.

  • We continue to rate Universal Display (OLED) shares a Buy with a $100 price target.
  • Our rating on Applied Materials (AMAT) remains a Buy with a $47 price target. 
  • We continue to rate Disney (DIS) shares a Buy with a $125 price target.
If Social Media Giant Inks a Deal with MLB It Could be More Than a Connected Society Play

If Social Media Giant Inks a Deal with MLB It Could be More Than a Connected Society Play

Earlier today, Reuters is reporting that Connected Society company Facebook (FB) is in talks with Major League Baseball (MLB) to live stream at least one game per week during the upcoming season. We’ve seen Facebook live stream other sporting events, like basketball and soccer, but should the company ink a deal with MLB it would mean a steady stream of games over the season.

Given the nature of live sporting events, as well as the strong fan following, we see Facebook’s angle in offering this kind of program as threefold — looking to attract incremental users, drive additional minutes of use, and deliver more advertising to its user base, which should improve its monetization efforts. All three of those are very much in tune with Facebook’s existing revenue strategy and meshes rather well with its growing interest in attacking the TV advertising market.

From a high level such a deal pushing Facebook not only deeper into the increasingly Connected Society, but pulling it into our Content is King investing theme as well. Sporting events are one of the last holdouts in the move to streaming services, and its loyal fan base is likely to shift to video consumption alternatives that allow them to get events where they want, when they want and on the device they have at the time be it TV, smartphone, computer or tablet. With the recent deployment of its app for Apple’s (AAPL) Apple TV and others soon to follow, Facebook has all of these modalities covered.

To date, Netflix (NFLX) has shied away from streaming such events, and while there have been rumblings about Amazon (AMZN) entering the fray with its Prime video platform, Twitter (TWTR) has been one of the few to venture into this area live streaming Thursday night NFL games last season. Between Facebook and Twitter, we see MLB and others opting for Facebook given its larger and more global reach as well as far greater success at monetizing its user base.

Should a deal with MLB come through, we would see this not only as a positive development but one that likely paves the way for more streaming video content on Facebook’s platforms — sports or otherwise. As avid consumers of streaming content, we would welcome this with open arms; as investors, depending on the scope of such a rollout there could be upside to our $155 price target for the Facebook stock.

 

On the Major League Baseball / ESPN side of the Equation

Today’s news report about this potential Facebook / MLB deal doesn’t mention Major League Baseball’s other media and streaming activities, particularly ESPN.  This spring will make the beginning of the fifth year of a $5.6 billion agreement between MLB and ESPN that keeps the national pastime on that network through 2021. Of course, the struggles of Disney-owned ESPN have been well-documented recently as its cable subscriber numbers continue to decline as chord-cutting activity increases, as well as seeing consumers trade down to smaller cable packages that omit ESPN.

Major League Baseball, on the other hand, has been at the forefront of the streaming of its games and app-driven content through BAMTech, the digital media company spun off by Major League Baseball’s MLB Advanced Media. Just last year, The Walt Disney Co (DIS) stepped up to make a $1 billion investment in BAMTech, joining MLB and the National Hockey League as co-owners.

So while this Facebook/MLB story makes no mention of Disney and ESPN, it’s pretty clear from the tangled web of BAMTech ownership, that ESPN will either be somehow involved in the streaming of these live events on Facebook (possibly producing the broadcast and using ESPN announcers) or in the very least Disney will financially benefit from the deal given its ownership in BAMTech.

We’ll be watching to see if any such move develops.

  • We continue to rate FB shares a Buy with $155 price target.
  • We continue to rate AMZN shares a Buy and our price target remains $975
  • We continue to rate DIS shares a Buy with a $125 price target.