Time Warner, Comcast see biggest gains

The first quarter was good for U.S. stocks, as the market gained about 12%. Some showbiz stocks did a lot better than that; others, considerably worse.

Within the S&P Composite 1500, an index that measures the broad market, there are 14 stocks in the broadcasting, cable & satellite, and movies & entertainment categories. For the first quarter of 2012, Time Warner Cable was the top performer in the group, gaining 28.2%. The stock got a boost from the purchase of fellow cabler Insight Communications as well as a robust share-buyback program.

Comcast came in second with a gain of 26.6% on strong fourth-quarter earnings and a 44% increase in the quarterly dividend. CBS Corp. was third with a 24.9% gain. Eye net ratings are strong, and the Showtime premium cable unit is gaining subs.

At the other side of the ledger, Time Warner Inc. and Viacom tied for second-worst performer in the group, each gaining just 4.5%. Although Time Warner beat Wall Street’s earnings estimates for the fourth quarter, the stock didn’t keep pace with the market. Weaker-than-expected ad revenues hurt Viacom. Cablevision Systems was last, with a 3.2% gain for the quarter. Latest earnings were below consensus estimates, and the fact the controlling Dolan family has no apparent succession plan has rankled some investors.

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