December 31, 2008 / 6:40 AM / 10 years ago

Investors tuned out of radio stocks in 2008

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Howard Stern may be the king of all media, but Wall Street is kicking the legs out from under his throne.

With one day left to trade in 2008, shares in the shock jock’s professional home, Sirius XM Satellite Radio Inc, are down 96% for the year at 12 cents.

Sirius XM’s problems stem from its $3.3 billion in debt, especially the $1 billion due in 2009. Although to be fair, the company’s hard times aren’t so different from the rest of radio, judging from Wall Street’s view of the sector.

Other big losers include Westwood One (off 98%), Citadel (off 92%), Salem Communications (off 90%), Entercom Communications (off 90%), Cumulus Media (off 68%) and Cox Radio (off 50%).

Among the few showbiz gainers are Marvel Entertainment — home to Spider-Man, Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk — up 14%; and DVD rental firm Netflix, up 8%.

Stocks that managed to outperform the 35% slide in the Dow Jones industrial average also included DirecTV (down 3%), DreamWorks Animation (off 5%), Comcast (down 12%), TiVo (off 18%), Time Warner Cable (down 21%), Apple (off 24%), Dow component Walt Disney Co (down 29%), and Imax (off 31%).

Imax managed to stage a 58% rally the past eight trading days. On December 15 — good timing! — Merriman Curhan Ford analyst Eric Wold reiterated his “buy” recommendation on Imax, noting how well it has done with its giant-screen version of the Fox movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

“In an economic environment where most consumers are struggling,” the analyst said, “it may seem counterintuitive that consumers would be willing to pay 30%-40% more for an Imax ticket.”

Nevertheless, he continued, “consumers are still willing to pay a premium price for a better moviegoing experience — whether that is seeing a movie on Imax screens or in digital 3-D.”

Digital 3-D, of course, also is the playground of DreamWorks Animation, and it will be more so in the future. Some analysts recommend DreamWorks Animation for that reason, as well as because like Marvel it’s a near pure-play on great entertainment content — a safe haven, perhaps, during a recession.

Other showbiz stocks getting some love from analysts this month are DirecTV, Time Warner Cable and TiVo.

Banc of America analyst Bryan Kraft called DirecTV and Time Warner Cable his top picks in the cable and satellite realm, and Kaufman Bros. analyst Todd Mitchell reiterated his “buy” rating on TiVo.

With $225 million in cash and no debt, and more money possibly to come once a legal dispute with Dish/EchoStar is settled, TiVo shares appear “over-discounted,” Mitchell said. The analyst figured TiVo is good for about a 17% rise next year.

BofA’s Kraft saw even more one-year upside potential for his two picks: 29% for Time Warner Cable and 34% for DirecTV.

“Economic resilience, rational competition, predictable free-cash-flow growth and attractive valuations make the sector an attractive investment opportunity,” he said.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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