Entertainment stocks were mixed bag in ’11

CBS shares up; Netflix, Cablevision down

The stock market was a roller coaster last year. And like that amusement park staple, it left its riders where they started. The S&P 500 Index ended 2011 essentially unchanged — the first time that’s happened since 1947.

Some entertainment industry names moved a lot more than the market, however. CBS Corp. was among the best gainers, taking 17th place among stocks in the index. Shares of the Eye web gained 42.5% for the year, reflecting ratings strength.

Twice as many entertainment names showed up on the S&P 500 laggards list. Cablevision Systems ranked sixth among price decliners for the year, dropping 58%. Investors appear worried about growth at the cabler as more people disconnected TV service than added it — a fear that appears to have been exacerbated by the mid-December departure of chief operating officer Tom Rutledge.

But the biggest-loser crown among entertainment stocks goes to Netflix. The DVD rental and streaming company’s shares fell 60.6% last year, the third-worst price change among the 500 stocks in the index. Netflix’s subscription price increase, and its subsequently reversed plan to separate its DVD and streaming services sent customers fleeing and the stock price plummeting.

Still, investors can be mercurial. Following Netflix’s January 4 report of strong streaming activity for the final quarter of last year, the stock surged more than 32% in five trading days.