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3 Stocks to Watch From a Challenging Cable Television Industry

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The Zacks Cable Television industry is witnessing a rise in cord-cutting on pay-TV options, including cable TV and satellite TV, due to intensifying competition from over-the-top service providers’ innovative content offerings. Focus on providing bundled offerings and on-demand programming content that cater to changing consumer behavior bodes well for streaming players.

Despite stiff competition, Cable Television industry players are benefiting from consistent demand for high-speed broadband. Strong demand for WiFi devices and wireless Internet has been driving growth. Increased consumption of media driven by hybrid-working and learning environment guidelines has been a key catalyst for industry participants like Rogers Communication (RCI - Free Report) , Liberty Broadband (LBRDA - Free Report) and Liberty Global (LBTYA - Free Report) .

Industry Description

The Zacks Cable Television industry primarily comprises companies that provide integrated data, video and voice services. Industry participants offer pay-TV services, including Internet-based streaming content. These companies provide equipment such as satellite dish, digital set-top receivers and remote controls. Typically, cable companies either build their network backbone or lease physical access to the network backbone from telecommunication companies. These companies purchase licenses to provide subscribers access to cable television channels owned by programmers and distributed over the network backbone. Cable companies also sell advertising spots on their channels. The industry requires a high capital expenditure on infrastructure to enhance its services. The industry is also highly regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.

4 Trends Shaping the Future of the Cable Industry

Skinny Bundles, Original Content Driving Growth: Cable television’s ability to generate ad revenues outside traditional TV platforms, such as websites and any digitally-consumed platform, provides increased scope for target-based advertising. Nevertheless, consumers’ unfavorable disposition, particularly toward advertising, has hit industry participants hard. Further, the growing consumer preference for digital and subscription services instead of linear pay-TV and rental or outright purchase has compelled industry players to alter their business models. Cable television companies are now offering a variety of alternative packages, including skinny bundles, which are delivered at lower costs than traditional offerings. These companies are also innovating in terms of original content to be competitive against streaming service providers.

High-Speed Internet Demand Key Catalyst: The growing demand for high-speed Internet, including broadband, has aided cable television industry participants like Comcast and Charter. Improving Internet speed is fueling the demand for high-quality video and the trend of binge viewing. Further, a strengthening broadband ecosystem in international markets, along with the proliferation of smart TVs, is anticipated to drive growth. Also, the work-from-home trend and online learning have boosted Internet usage, thus supporting industry participants.

Cord Cutting and Matured PayTV Industry Hurting Prospects: The cable television industry is witnessing the rapid evolution of distribution platforms as well as embracing new players and advanced technologies. Declining profits of residential video services due to rising programming costs and retransmission fees have made survival difficult for traditional companies. Additionally, the heightened need for on-demand content has led to the mushrooming of streaming service providers, making it particularly tricky for traditional cable television companies to maintain a viewer base. Furthermore, the traditional pay-TV industry is maturing with widespread consolidation. Moreover, residential voice service revenues are declining due to the rising shift to wireless voice services.

Softness in Advertising Demand Impeding Business Growth: Persistent inflation and higher interest rates are having a detrimental effect on ad spending. Besides, the challenge with TV ads is that marketers have difficulty getting actionable metrics and insights such as attribution data. At this time, marketers must look for outside-the-box solutions to extract conversion data from offline media. TV has taken a secondary role in most marketing strategies due to the growing influence of digital marketing. Many marketers are increasing ad spending on digital mediums due to their unmatched ability to deliver personalized messages that are easy to measure. Cable TV players are set to face competition for ad dollars from streaming service providers like Netflix and Disney, which are raising prices and introducing cheaper ad-supported packages now that their subscriber growth has slowed.

Zacks Industry Rank Indicates Dull Prospects

The Zacks Cable Television industry is housed within the broader Zacks Consumer Discretionary sector. It carries a Zacks Industry Rank #232, which places it in the bottom 8% of more than 250 Zacks industries.

The group’s Zacks Industry Rank, which is basically the average of the Zacks Rank of all member stocks, indicates weak near-term prospects. Our research shows that the top 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries outperforms the bottom 50% by a factor of more than 2 to 1.

The industry’s position in the bottom 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries is a result of a negative earnings outlook for the constituent companies in aggregate. Looking at the aggregate earnings estimate revisions, it appears that analysts are pessimistic about this group’s earnings growth potential.

Before we present a few stocks that you may want to consider for your portfolio, let’s take a look at the industry’s recent stock-market performance and valuation picture.

Industry Lags Sector, S&P 500

The Zacks Cable Television industry has underperformed the broader Zacks Consumer Discretionary sector and the S&P 500 composite over the past year.

The industry has declined 8.8% over this period compared with the broader sector’s increase of 3.4% and the S&P 500’s rise of 22.6%.

One-Year Price Performance

Industry's Current Valuation

On the basis of the trailing 12-month EV/EBITDA, a commonly used multiple for valuing cable companies, we see that the industry is currently trading at 6.7X compared with the S&P 500’s 14.63X and the sector’s 8.27X.

Over the past five years, the industry has traded as high as 15.39X, as low as 6.51X and at the median of 10.68X, as the chart below shows.


3 Cable Stocks in Focus

Rogers Communication: This Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) company continues to benefit from mobile phone and Internet subscriber additions. The company’s investments in the 5G spectrum and partnerships with leading real estate companies to support 5G infrastructure deployment are catalysts. Rogers has expanded its 5G network to more than 2,200 communities, reaching more than 27 million Canadians. This is expected to be a key growth driver in the long haul. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Further, the acquisition of Shaw Communications is expected to expand its user base. Rogers will expand its market share from a predominantly eastern Canada focus into the sparsely populated regions of Western Canada on the back of Shaw’s wireline, or cable and Internet, business. Within five years, Rogers looks to invest at least $2.5 billion to enhance and expand 5G coverage in Western Canada and at least $3 billion in additional network, services and technology investments.

Shares of the company have declined 19.5% in the year-to-date period. The consensus mark for 2024 earnings has moved down 1.1% to $3.60 per share in the past 30 days.

Price and Consensus: RCI

Liberty Broadband: This Zacks Rank #3 company, through its subsidiaries, engages in providing digital cable services to residential and commercial customers and entertainment, information and communications solutions. It also provides wireless location positioning and related services. Liberty Broadband Corporation owns 47 million shares of Charter Communications' common stock, which represents fully diluted ownership. As of Dec 31, 2023, LBRDA had a fair value of $18 billion in its Charter investment.

The company is benefiting from strength in the GCI Holdings business, which provides a full range of data, wireless, video, voice, and managed services to residential customers, businesses, governmental entities, and educational and medical institutions, primarily in Alaska, under the GCI brand. Due to the unique nature of the markets it serves, including harsh winter weather and remote geographies, its customers rely extensively on its systems to meet their communication and entertainment needs.

Shares of the company have declined 40.1% in the year-to-date period. The consensus mark for 2024 earnings has remained steady at $12.03 per share in the past 30 days.

Price and Consensus: LRBDA

Liberty Global: This international provider of video, broadband Internet, fixed-line telephony, mobile and other communications services is benefiting from increasing Internet speed and an expanded mobile subscriber base. Increasing demand for higher Internet speed in the U.K. has been a key catalyst. The company’s focus on offering higher-value bundles is expected to drive the top line.

Liberty Global is also benefiting from the acquisition of Sunrise Communications in Switzerland. Moreover, the company’s non-consolidated joint venture —Virgin Media O2 — is contributing to the top line.

Shares of this Zacks Rank #3 company have declined 8.1% in the year-to-date period. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Liberty’s 2024 loss has remained steady at 61 cents per share in 30 days’ time.

Price and Consensus: LBTYA

See More Zacks Research for These Tickers

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Rogers Communication, Inc. (RCI) - free report >>

Liberty Global Ltd (LBTYA) - free report >>

Liberty Broadband Corporation (LBRDA) - free report >>

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