3 Ways to Invest in Streaming Media

05/06/2019 5:00 am EST

Focus: STOCKS

Nancy Zambell

Editor, Wall Street's Best Investments and Wall Street's Best Dividend Stocks

The evolution of television has been pretty amazing. For decades, the cable companies were the powers of the industry. Then, satellite companies made significant inroads into the cable providers’ business, explains Nancy Zambell, editor of Wall Street's Best Investments.

The latest—and most threatening—interlopers are the streaming companies. Netflix (NFLX) had the streaming market mostly to itself for years, growing its membership to some 130 million. Netflix offers a huge—and growing—library of television shows and movies.

And in its most recent history, the company has spread its talents to creating original series and movies, and has cemented partnerships with other entertainment companies like Marvel to co-create shows.

Netflix stock has been a proven winner for the company’s investors. But now trading with a P/E of 128, the price of the company’s shares is pretty lofty. Fortunately, investors wanting to take advantage of this rapidly-expanding entertainment niche, have several other choices of streaming stocks.

Some of the most exciting streaming stocks are the larger companies that have been around for many years. The first one is a business that has succeeded in revolutionizing the personal computer, music and cell phone industries. And now, it is tackling streaming.

You got it — it’s Apple Inc. (AAPL). The company Apple has already tackled the subscription business with its App Store, iCloud and Apple Music.

The company has announced its new streaming service, Apple TV Plus. The announcement of $2 billion worth of original programming featured some of Hollywood’s biggest names as the development masters, including Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell.

The service is expected to launch in the fall in more than 100 countries, and will be ad-free, available on demand, and viewable both online and offline. Access will be via the redesigned Apple TV app on iOS, Mac, Roku, Fire TV and televisions from various manufacturers.

This product promises to allow consumers to see not only its original programming but also offers viewers the ability cherry pick from a number of other channels, including HBO, Showtime, Starz, CBS All Access. Pricing has not yet been announced.

Time will tell how well Apple Plus TV fares, but I wouldn’t bet against this company that has proven itself very adaptable to winning trends. The shares are now trading at a reasonable P/E of around 30, and the company’s stock has been initiated and upgraded at several brokerage houses in the past few months.

Next is Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN). You can get the firm's streaming service through a subscription to Amazon Prime (now at more than 100 million subscribers) or a video-only subscription.

The service includes original series such as “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Bosch.” It also offers exclusive rights to “Downton Abbey,” and HBO’s back catalog of shows. As well, you can add to your subscription HBO, Showtime and other premium channels.

Google and Amazon have now made up, and with a new collaboration, Amazon Prime Video will soon be available on Google’s Chromecast and Android TV devices. And Amazon will offer Google’s YouTube, Tube Kids and YouTube TV.

Amazon streaming can be accessed in a variety of ways. It supports 4K and HDR streaming, and is available via offline downloads, works on a web browser, and on Android and iOS devices, Fire devices (TV, TV Cube, TV Stick, phones and tablets), game consoles (PlayStation, Xbox, and Wii), Smart TVs, and set-top boxes (Apple TV 4K, Roku, Google TV, TiVo and Nvidia Shield).

And while Amazon shares are trading at more than $1,800, the company’s P/E is a hefty 92, we need to remember that this company has almost always traded at high levels, but that hasn’t stopped investors from almost a cult-like following that continues to drive the share price upward.

Last but not least is a name we have loved for many years — The Walt Disney Company (DIS). For years, Disney has licensed its content to services such as Netflix, for which it pulls in about $300 million, annually. But now it is set to launch Disney+ (a Netflix-style video platform) next November, in which the company plans to spend billions of dollars over multiple years.

The service will include more than 100 recent and 400 classic movies and 7,500 television episodes. It expects to reach 60-90 million subscribers by 2024, garnering some $5 billion in annual revenues.

Disney+ will be accessed via laptops, mobile devices, gaming consoles and connected TVs, as well as on Apple TV, PlayStation 4 and the Roku Channel.

Disney+ has been a long time coming. The idea started in 2016, when the company acquired a minority stake in BAMTech (a spin-out of MLB Advanced Media’s streaming technology business) for $1 billion, with an option to acquire a majority stake in the future. A year later, Disney increased its stake to 75%.

In the short term, its original content and severing of its license deals may hurt it financially, but in the long run, having an original content streaming service makes a lot of sense.

Disney’s catalog is unrivaled and includes its well-loved Disney animation and live-action movies, as well as its Star Wars franchise, Pixar, 20th Century Fox, Marvel, LucasFilm, National Geographic and 20th Century Fox.

And later, analysts expect the company to bundle its movie content with its other products, including Hulu, ESPN and ABC. Trading at a P/E of just 18 and a price around 132, analysts are jumping on board.

While you can’t say that any of these three companies are the sexy, hot stocks of the moment, there’s something to be said for betting on past winners who are proven survivors that have enriched investors for years.

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