DIS and ESPN
A relative in the movie business called my attention to Marvel Entertainment a few years ago. When it was acquired by DIS in late 2009, I held onto the stock I got and added more in the mid-$20 range Marvel, of course, has been pure gold for DIS, even though DIS initially went down on fears that DIS had overpaid. Naturally I sold the stock way too early, in the mid-$60s–acting more like a value investor than a growth stock fan.
My first thought on reading the DIS 10-K, as I acquainted myself with the company,was that the company really should have been named ESPN, since at that time the cable sports network accounted for 2/3 of DIS’s overall operating profit and virtually all of its earnings growth.
red flags about ESPN
Over the past several years, a number of key warning signs have popped up about ESPN, however:
–ESPN decided to expand into the UK, signalling to me that it considered its US franchise on the cusp of maturity
–but ESPN was outbid for soccer rights by locals and effectively terminated its international expansion ideas–not good, either
–DIS began to shift cash flow away from ESPN and toward the movie and theme park business, which I took to be a sign of corporate worries about ESPN’s growth potential, rather than simply diversification for diversification’s sake
–serious discussion has begun over the past year about the demise of cable system bundled pricing, which likely benefits ESPN substantially (I suspect we’ll find out how substantially sooner rather than later)
–since ESPN.com’s recent format change, I find myself almost exclusively using Time Warner’s Bleacher Report for sports information
–personally, although this isn’t the most crucial part of my analysis, I think the progressive dumbing-down of ESPN coverage, in imitation of sports talk radio, to gain a wider audience will backfire.
To sum up,, there has been an increasing collection of evidence that ESPN probably won’t be the same growth engine for DIS that it has been in the past.
…DIS shares were down by about 10% in Wednesday trading (in an up market) on the first signs in the earnings report of the factors I’ve just listed.
Where was the market’s discounting mechanism, which in the past has been continuously evaluating corporate strategy and factoring worries like the long list I’ve mentioned above into the stock price?
…only on the earnings report, not before
To my mind, DIS trading yesterday is another indicator that information isn’t flowing on Wall Street as fast as it once did. That’s neither good nor bad; it’s just the way the game is being played in today’s world. What we as investors have got to figure out is how to adjust our own behavior to fit altered circumstances.
My initial thought is that it may be riskier than it has been to dabble in down-and-out industries like mining or oil until the final bad news has hit income statements.