When Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) started offering its customers a streaming option back in 2007, it was basically the only game in town; it had free rein for a good few years. That did a lot to cement its public perception as the “King” of streaming.
Nowadays, of course, there’s unbelievable competition – worldwide – for the consumer’s entertainment dollar.
In addition to Netflix, you’ve got Walt Disney Co.’s (NYSE: DIS) three, soon to be four, streaming services, AT&T Inc.’s (NYSE: T) massive HBO Max, Amazon.com Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) Amazon Prime Video – at this point there are just too many to list here.
The upshot, for investors, is that some of the world’s biggest companies, with the hottest stocks, are actively duking it out right now, chasing the biggest share of a huge pool of money.
When that happens, investors who back the right horse tend to win out. The cool part is, the “right horse” doesn’t necessarily need to be the ultimate winner – it just has to have a solid, executable plan and the assets to make that plan a reality.
That’s right – despite what you hear, you can absolutely double your money on the third- or fourth-place company…
Streaming Stocks Are in a Good Place, But…
As we all know, for the last year or so, billions of people around the world were pretty much stuck inside. Netflix alone added a record 37 million new subscribers over the course of 2021.
That kicked off a streaming boom, packed with mergers and acquisitions, big spending for top-notch content, unprecedented incentives, and fast expansion for the biggest companies jockeying for position. What investors got was really a boom in stock prices.
That’s cooled off a bit – most of the big streamers are well off their 52-week highs. But the fact remains, as of May 2021, more people have streaming subscriptions than pay for cable.
I don’t think the streaming boom is quite over yet; it’s taking a breather, sure, but there’s a lot of activity in this space that suggests a new phase in the “war” and, more than likely, a new run to highs.
A lot of investors are talking about this recent merger.
Just this past Monday, AT&T and Discovery Inc. (NASDAQ: DISCA) announced a merger of their media assets. They’re trying to create a more competitive platform to challenge rivals like Netflix and Disney’s Disney+.
The $43 billion deal, which will create a new publicly traded company, will see AT&T unload its WarnerMedia assets, including the popular HBO Max service, as AT&T looks to return to its core wireless communications business. It’s not all that different from what we talked about earlier this month, when Verizon unloaded its sluggish media properties onto Apollo Global.
Discovery is expected to give the HBO Max platform additional distribution capabilities around the world as HBO is preparing to launch its streaming platform internationally. Discover’s Discovery+ streaming platform gets more than half of its revenue from outside of the United States – with a lineup that includes popular channels like Food Network, TLC, HGTV, Animal Planet, and Eurosport.
The initial reaction to the merger was positive, with DISCA and T opening up 10% and 3.9%, respectively. But… as the trading day wore on, both stocks slumped below their prior close price as the market endured another down day.
So, this merger, for investors, is a dud right now – though it might be worth another look further down the road.
That points us in the direction of the streaming stock to buy right now.
My Favorite Name in This Competitive Space
Now, first things first: It doesn’t actually matter who “wins” the streaming war.
All the media focus is on the “winner.” I don’t necessarily think, in the short term, Netflix or Disney or Amazon will be “dethroned” by some upstart we haven’t heard of. But that doesn’t mean other, smaller streaming stocks won’t be insanely profitable over the next two years.
I think the big profit potential, both in terms of buy-and-hold and trading, is in ViacomCBS Inc. (NASDAQ: VIAC). Its CBS All Access streaming service has been rebranded as Paramount+ and, frankly, the pivot is happening at a particularly strong time for the media giant.
Paid subscribers hit 17.9 million in 2020, at a time when the service was actually very light on the marquee movies other streamers offer. The “secret sauce” there was the hugely popular, 55-year-old “Star Trek” franchise. Granted, “Star Trek” doesn’t rake in the megabucks in the way that “Star Wars” or the Marvel Cinematic Universe do, but various sources estimate the franchise is worth a “mere” $10.6 billion – a respectable chunk of change for a $26 billion company like ViacomCBS.
The “Star Trek” franchise sports nine television series going back to 1966, including two brand new “Trek” series that debuted on the streaming platform in 2020, both of which were very well-received by critics and customers.
Now, an older deal from the last decade meant that the franchise was split into TV series and films, with CBS keeping dibs on the shows and Paramount Studios retaining the 13 “Star Trek” films, but a more recent “re-merger” brings the $2.3 billion TV properties and the $2.26 billion movie properties under one roof again, and there are aggressive plans to grow it beyond 2021 with – you guessed it – more “Star Trek” series. It’s like a license to print money.
Paramount+ is an altogether more valuable streaming operation than its earlier CBS All Access incarnation; the addition of basically Paramount Pictures’ entire movie catalogue and a raft of other properties really boosts the “value proposition” for subscribers. And, in a particularly smart move, there are plans to invest heavily, Netflix-style, in original content. There are something like 36 new series planned for the first year, including those new “Trek” series.
The stock itself, VIAC, is looking incredibly attractive right now; it’s definitely “on sale” at current prices. I wouldn’t have touched VIAC with a borrowed 10-foot pole at its March 22, 2021 high of $101.97, but here, below $45, I can’t buy enough. Even after the fall from $101, the stock is still up about 100% from where it was a year ago, but the upside potential here for at least another double over 2021 is strong.
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Source: Money Morning