Dark days ahead as TV stock loses $50 billion in value

Dark days ahead as TV stock loses $50 billion in value

Many TV execs have been waiting for a deus ex machina to come enter and rescue them from the scourge of online content. Yet after this week, chances that a savior will come onscreen are slimmer than ever.

Many TV execs have been waiting for a deus ex machina to come enter and rescue them from the scourge of online content. Yet after this week, chances that a savior will come onscreen are slimmer than ever.

Investors sold off TV- related stocks by the troves- the sector lost $50 billion in value in just two days. Negotiations between companies and cable providers have been struggling to come to an agreement over the price of inclusion in cable bundles.

The stock of Disney (which owns ESPN) has fallen by 11 percent. Viacom (owner of MTV and Nickelodeon) has fallen by 21 percent. Time Warner down 10 percent, Discovery Channel down 9 percent, and Twenty-First Century Fox down 13 percent. Even basic cable’s CBS is down one percent.

“Questions around the death of pay TV are now front and center even if the size and pace of declines are likely being overstated by press and Street commentary,” said Michael Nathanson, an analyst at MoffettNathanson Research.

Advertising revenue for the last quarter is down sharply- the fourth grim looking quarter in a row. The shift of viewers away from their TVs and onto their computer screens has been a subtle yet steady movement. Some industry executives have managed to convince themselves that this is not a major threat.

For instance, ‘cord cutting’ millennials are often disregarded as a small subset and nothing compared to the cash cow of middle class suburban families.  Yet more and more people are turning to commercial free, instant-watch alternatives such as Netflix or Amazon.

Netflix is the leading indicator of the change that is occurring in consumer behavior. “It’s totally, totally shifted to Netflix. Netflix is the most powerful content aggregator in the world today, and there’s nobody that’s even close,” said Charles Ergen, chairman of Dish Network.

It has become increasingly apparent that TV is not immune to the woes that have befallen other entertainment industries such as music and newspapers.

“There is no question that our industry is in the midst of significant change,” said Philippe Dauman CEO of Viacom.

While there is not doubt that TV-style content is still in high demand, whether that content will be shown on a TV or PC is anyone’s guess.

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