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Media Stocks End Day Mixed, as Concerns Over ‘Death of Pay TV’ Grow

Shares of several major media congloms — including Viacom, Disney, Time Warner and 21st Century Fox — closed down for a second straight day, as investors found new reasons to worry about the health of the pay-TV sector.

The pressure on media stocks was not as sharp Thursday as it was the day before, when investors engaged in a selloff spurred by Disney’s lower guidance on pay-TV affiliate fees and chief Bob Iger admitting ESPN had lost some subscribers. Analyst Michael Nathanson said the investor reaction put the question of the death of pay TV front and center.

Viacom, which posted lower revenue and earnings before market open Thursday, dropped 13.3% to close at $44.80 — well off the $88.28 it hit last July.

21st Century Fox fell 6.7% for the day, with others declining including AMC Networks (down 3.6%), Disney (down 1.8%) and Time Warner (down 0.8%).

Not all media stocks suffered: CBS ended trading up 3.6%, closing at $52.24 per share Thursday, while Discovery Communications — after falling earlier in the day — closed up 3.5%, to $29.88. Scripps Networks Interactive, whose portfolio includes Food Network and HGTV, was up 1.8% to close at $58.59 per share.

And then there was Netflix, which closed at a record $126.45 per share, up 2.2% for the day.

The woes for the media stocks came as the overall market declined, with the Dow dipping 0.69% and the S&P 500 dropping 0.78% for the day.

The steady decline of cable and satellite TV subscribers — which could accelerate the shift to smaller channel bundles — suggests media companies will expand digital distribution of their premium programming.

“While the traditional pay-TV bundle is under pressure, people still want to be entertained,” said Mike Goodman, director of digital media strategies at Strategy Analytics. “They are still watching many of the same TV shows that they did on live TV but now they are watch them via over-the-top services such as Hulu or Netflix.”

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