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It’s likely no surprise to investors that we’re in a golden age of video content. For just a few dollars a month, consumers can sign up for any number of first-class media streaming services that offer libraries of award-winning content and new original programming.
Consumers are devouring video media like never before, with the average American now signed up for four streaming services. The more the merrier, right?
The shift to video streaming from cable and satellite services has forced many traditional media companies to merge with others or adopt new long-term content strategies. Some media companies may be losing ground, but new leaders are emerging at a rapid pace. And all of this upheaval in the media has created some massive opportunities for investors.
That’s why I’ve put together this list of top media stocks investors shouldn’t miss. The media landscape is shifting, and when the dust settles many of the companies on this list will be left dominating their respective markets.
These are the 7 best media stocks in the industry right now.
- Walt Disney Company
- Comcast Corporation
Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX)
Price: $532.28 (as of close Jul 16, 2021)
There’s no doubt Netflix can be credited for single-handedly starting the rush to streaming media after the company launched its video streaming service back in 2007.
Netflix wins the first-mover advantage award for understanding that consumers would pay to have video content streamed to their TVs, commercial-free, and without a long-term contract commitment. In hindsight, it seems like a no-brainer move, but it was unheard of at the time it started.
Fast-forward 13 years and Netflix finished 2020 with 208 million paid members and is still one of consumers’ core video streaming services year after year.
The company has a mix of licensing deals to stream movies and TV shows and is constantly building its own library of original content as well. In 2020 alone the company spent nearly $12 billion on original content, from which it earned 129 Emmy nominations in 2021.
Netflix’s streaming media dominance has resulted in the company’s share price skyrocketing more than 440% over the past five years.
Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL)
Price: $142.45 (as of close Jul 16, 2021)
Yes, Apple’s a media company now. How? When the company launched its own video streaming service, Apple TV+, just two years ago and started producing its own original TV shows and movies to put on the service, Apple clearly added “media company” to its already insanely impressive resume.
If you’re wondering if content created by Apple can be any good, then go watch a few episodes of Ted Lasso and tell me you don’t love it. I’ll wait. Or you can just ask the more than 40 million Apple TV+ subscribers.
Apple TV+ may not be as big as other media services out there, but Apple doesn’t need its streaming service to be as big as Netflix to benefit from the service. The company is pairing its video streaming service with its other growing list of services, including Apple Music, iCloud Storage, Apple Fitness+, and others, allowing this FAANG stock to add a growing amount of recurring revenue to its top line.
Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS)
Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS)
Price: $0 (as of close Jul 16, 2021)
Disney is one of the biggest media companies in the world, with a content library that should make all of its rivals jealous. Not only does the company have many decades worth of Disney-branded animated movies that consumers can now stream on Disney+, but the company made two incredible media purchases over the past decade.
The first was Disney’s purchase of Marvel Entertainment in 2009 for $4 billion. That gave the company the characters in the lucrative Marvel Cinematic Universe and has already helped Disney launch new shows on Disney+ based on Marvel characters.
Second was Disney’s other $4 billion purchase: the media giant’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012. That purchase gave Disney ownership of the entire Star Wars film collection and possession of all its characters, allowing Disney to create new shows and movies for, well, forever.
Disney has amassed 100 million users since it launched its streaming service—in part as the coronavirus pandemic forced many people to stay home in 2020—and the early boost is likely to set the company up for future growth.
With Disney’s own branded content and its lucrative purchases of Marvel and Lucasfilm, Disney is perfectly positioned to be a media giant for many more decades to come.
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Where to invest $500 right now
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- They discovered Netflix for $1.85 per share, back in the days of DVDs by mail.
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Discovery (Nasdaq: DISCA) (Nasdaq: DISCK)
Discovery (C shares) (NASDAQ:DISCK)
Price: $0 (as of close Jul 16, 2021)
AT&T (T) may be the perfect example of a media company that’s undergoing massive transitions. Just a few years ago the company merged with Time Warner in an $85 billion deal and created the telecom’s media unit, WarnerMedia.
Then in mid-2021, AT&T announced that it would merge WarnerMedia with Discovery, creating an entirely new company under Discovery, with many of WarnerMedia and Discovery’s media assets under one roof.
The $43 billion deal is huge, considering it’ll merge lucrative media assets like HBO and HBO Max with the Discovery+ video streaming service for a total of 100 million subscribers.
The company’s management has big plans for the merger, including using the combined $20 million the companies spend on content each year to help the new media company build viewership to 400 million subscribers worldwide in the coming years.
ViacomCBS (Nasdaq: VIAC)
ViacomCBS Inc (NASDAQ:VIAC)
Price: $0 (as of close Jul 16, 2021)
For investors looking for a traditional media company that’s also transitioning its focus to streaming may want to consider ViacomCBS. The company not only owns the broadcast channel CBS, but also Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, and Showtime.
The company launched its own video streaming service in early 2021 and offers multiple tiers. Between Paramount+ and Showtime, the company has about 30 million video subscribers.
That’s not as many as some of ViacomCBS’s competitors, but with the company owning some very popular content channels and its broadcast station, this media player may just be getting started in the streaming space.
Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN)
Price: $3549.59 (as of close Jul 16, 2021)
Like Apple, Amazon may seem like an odd company to put on this list, but there are some very good reasons why the e-commerce giant deserves a spot amongst the largest media players.
The company has had a video streaming service—Amazon Video—included in the company’s Prime subscription service for years. For a while, the shows and movies on the service were just content that the company licensed. That was good enough as an add-on benefit of Prime’s main focus—fast shipping—but it’s recently become a major video streaming service with its eye on Netflix.
Amazon spent about $11 billion for its video and streaming music in 2020, an increase of 41% from the prior year. But Amazon hasn’t stopped there: the company just bought the movie studio MGM in mid-2021 for $8.5 billion, making Amazon an even larger threat to its peers by adding 4,000 movies and 17,000 hours of television viewing to its library.
Add to all that the fact that Amazon now has 200 million subscribers worldwide, and you’ll realize why other media companies should be taking Amazon’s content ambitions very seriously.
Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA)
Price: $0 (as of close Jul 16, 2021)
Comcast is a formidable media giant that has its hands in nearly every media-adjacent business. Not only does the company have the largest cable company in the United States, but it also has a successful broadband internet business and owns NBCUniversal (and runs its own theme park!).
The company’s massive reach across so many media-related businesses makes Comcast an obvious addition to this media stock list, but the company is also taking steps to further its dominance.
One such move has been the launch of its Peacock streaming service, which now has 42 million subscribers. While the streaming market is certainly getting very crowded, the company has been able to distinguish itself by adding the popular Universal Pictures movies to its library and being the only place to stream the hit comedy The Office (take my money, Comcast!).
While Comcast certainly has its work cut out for it as it builds out Peacock, the company’s massive $265 billion market cap and its current media assets give it a lot of long-term potential in the media space.
The media landscape is constantly shifting because of intense competition and constant mergers and consolidations.
This means that investors need to keep a close eye on what competitive advantages, if any, a company might have when one media company merges with another. Many times, big mergers may seem like smart moves, but are often costly and don’t create sustainable advantages for a company. The $165 billion merger between AOL and Time Warner back in 2000 is a classic example.
Additionally, investors need to consider what unique content a media company owns that gives it an advantage over its rivals. For example, Disney’s purchases of Marvel and Lucasfilm were very wise moves, giving the company characters, stories, TV shows, and movies that give the media giant content consumers just can’t get enough of.
And of course, investors should look for companies that have strong balance sheets and enough cash on hand to invest in new content and new technologies.
If you don’t feel comfortable sifting through all of the media companies listed on the stock market and investing in one of them, then you may want to invest in a media exchange-traded fund (ETF).
ETFs give investors exposure to a basket of stocks in a single industry or index, helping to eliminate some of the volatility that can come with investing in just one stock (or even a handful).
One ETF investors may want to consider is the iShares Evolved U.S. Media and Entertainment ETF (IEME). This ETF aims to invest in U.S. companies with exposure to the media and entertainment business and includes stocks such as Disney, Comcast, Netflix, Discovery, and many others.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best media stock to buy?
There are a lot of good media stocks on Wall Street that could be great long-term bets. Out of the companies on this list, Apple and Netflix have been the highest performing. Apple’s stock is up 498% and Netflix’s stock has gained 440% over the past five years—far more than the S&P 500’s 100% gains.
Why are media stocks going up?
There could be any number of reasons why media stock prices have gone up. Sometimes media stock prices rise because of an acquisition announcement or even speculation about an acquisition or merger. Also, shares of a media stock might go up if the company reported strong revenue and earnings growth in a quarter.
What is a media stock?
A media stock could be any publicly traded company that offers entertainment services to customers. For example, Disney is a great example of a media stock because the company creates television shows and movies, owns ESPN and the ABC broadcast company Hulu, and also has its own video streaming platform, Disney+.