Merger and re-merger mania, worries about cord-cutting, concerns about the strong dollar overseas and fretting about the erosion of TV’s traditional advertising market all contributed to an eventful year for media and entertainment stocks.
Most of showbiz’s core congloms finished out the year on an up note — with Viacom, Lionsgate and AMC Networks being notable exceptions. The Dow index was up 13.4% for the year, thanks in part to a strong run that began in early November. The Nasdaq gained 7.5% for the year while the S&P 500 spiked 9.5%.
Time Warner was the big winner for the year with a 49% boost coming as AT&T surprised the biz with its aggressive and whirlwind courtship that ended with the $85.4 billion merger announcement on Oct. 22. But Time Warner shares were buoyant for most of the year before AT&T came into the picture.
CBS also benefitted from the market speculation about deals afoot, coupled with strong earnings and momentum demonstrated for its CBS All Access streaming service. The drama surrounding the fate of CBS controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone’s empire took a toll on the stock in early February but it began to recover the following month.
CBS shares never sagged again despite the potential for the re-merger with its ailing corporate sibling Viacom — a flirtation that was called off by the Redstone clan earlier this month. Like other media congloms, CBS began a steady climb in early November that padded its double-digit year-to-date gain.
Viacom, on the other hand, felt the pinch of all the turmoil surrounding the management of the company. Shares were down more than 20% in early February as the Redstone-related pressure began to heat up. The stock felt the seesaw effect through the summer and fall but it has held mostly steady since late September.
Disney had a bumpy year after a big “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” run-up in the second half of 2015. Concerns about subscriber losses and mounting costs at ESPN dogged the stock for most of the summer and fall, but Disney managed to stay essentially flat for the year after a jump in early December as the release of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” approached.
Comcast, on the other hand, rode positive news for its cable unit, growth at NBCUniversal and the acquisition of DreamWorks Animation to a steady upward march for most of the year, with the exception of a brief dip just after the Time Warner-AT&T union was unveiled.
Lionsgate’s ho-hum year at the box office took a toll on the stock but the closing of its acquisition of Starz gave it a late-year bounce to cut its year-to-date loss down from 19% in early December to about 14% as of Dec. 30.
AMC Networks was stalked throughout the year by concerns about its dependence on “The Walking Dead” franchise as an earnings driver. Although the AMC drama remains TV’s highest-rated scripted series in the adults 18-49 demo, viewership declines after several seasons of explosive growth raised red flags for Wall Street. The sharply lower ratings for season two of the spinoff series “Fear the Walking Dead” also were a bad omen for AMC.
|2016’s Winners and Losers|
|Dec. 30 closing price: $96.53|
|% gain during 2016: 49%|
|Dec. 30 closing price: $63.62|
|% gain during 2016: 35%|
|Scripps Networks Interactive|
|Dec. 30 closing price: $71.37|
|% gain during 2016: 29.2%|
|Dec. 30 closing price: $69.05|
|% gain during 2016: 22.4%|
|Dec. 30 closing price: $749.87|
|% gain during 2016: 11%|
|Dec. 30 closing price: $115.82|
|% gain during 2016: 10%|
|Dec. 30 closing price: $115.05|
|% gain during 2016: 9.9%|
|Dec. 30 closing price: $123.82|
|% gain during 2016: 8.2%|
|Dec. 30 closing price: $27.41|
|% gain during 2016: 2.7%|
|Dec. 30 closing price: $792.45|
|% gain during 2016: 1.9%|
|Dec. 30 closing price: $27.25|
|% gain during 2016: 0.07%|
|Dec. 30 closing price: $104.22|
|% gain during 2016: 0.82%|
|Dec. 30 closing price: $24.54|
|% loss during 2016: 14%|
|Dec. 30 closing price: $35.10|
|% loss during 2016: 14.7%|
|Dec. 30 closing price: $52.34|
|% loss during 2016: 30%|