Stock Market Sell-Off: Is Paramount a Buy? | The Motley Fool

Stock Market Sell-Off: Is Paramount a Buy? | The Motley Fool

Paramount ​​Global (PARA -0.36%) CEO Robert Bakish has put out signals that the company’s current-quarter earnings will struggle to match the previous quarter’s results. Speaking recently at the UBS Global TMT Conference in New York, Bakish said macroeconomic factors are suppressing spending across the advertising industry and are dragging down Paramount’s numbers. The executive noted Paramount had been actively looking for “some improvement in some sectors,” but admitted those changes are yet to materialize.

Investors reacted poorly to Bakish’s outlook, sending Paramount’s stock tumbling by 9%. But there are signs in the company’s most recent results that suggest the media company could be in a stronger long-term position than is immediately obvious.

A depressed economic outlook

The ad space has been soft for some time, typified by many large brands opting to scale back their committed marketing spends. Coupled with many economists anticipating a U.S. recession to land in either 2023 or 2024, companies reliant on advertising are likely to feel the pressure for some time yet.

In its fiscal 2022 third-quarter report, Roku cited the current economic environment as a challenge for its revenue. “We expect these conditions to be temporary, but it is difficult to predict when they will stabilize or rebound,” the company said in a statement.

SVOD shows promise

One of the brightest spots in Paramount’s Q3 results was its subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service, Paramount+.

Paramount’s direct-to-consumer (DTC) count grew to almost 67 million worldwide over the quarter; 46 million were Paramount+ customers. Streaming rivals Netflix and Walt Disney’s Disney+ are much bigger with 223 million and 164.2 million subscribers respectively, but Disney+ is available in 130 markets, while Netflix is in 190. Paramount+ currently reaches less than 70 countries.

Still, despite the modest numbers, Paramount is aiming for 100 million DTC subscribers by the end of 2024. And one of the ways the company hopes to do this is with movies and live sports.

A content play

Top Gun: Maverick — produced by Paramount subsidiary Paramount Pictures — generated almost $1.5 billion in global ticket sales this year, making it the highest-grossing movie of 2022. Looking to seize on the film’s popularity, Paramount has announced Top Gun: Maverick will debut exclusively on Paramount+ later this month. The move is part of a bigger strategy that, by 2024, will see all Paramount Pictures movies move over to Paramount+ once they have completed their theatrical run.

Last year, Paramount (then known as ViacomCBS) signed an 11-year deal with the NFL, allowing it to broadcast live game coverage via CBS Sports and Paramount+. The multiplatform agreement came into effect with the current NFL season, which Paramount says was a “significant acquisition” driver.

Paramount recently secured a six-year extension for UEFA Champions League soccer, which includes the right to broadcast live games on Paramount+. Paramount also has a similar multiplatform arrangement with PGA Tour.

Paramount stock as a long-term bet

As things stand, Paramount’s share price is under the $20 mark, which is almost half its $39 52-week high. But if the company can continue to execute on its content strengths and reach 100 million SVOD customers over the coming 12 to 24 months, its value will surely increase.

The threat of an economic downturn could certainly suppress demand, and perhaps consumers will have to be more selective about the streaming services they subscribe to. But considering Paramount+ starts at $4.99 a month, offers live sports and some bona fide hit movies, it may fare better than many of its competitors should households begin chopping services.

For investors looking at multiyear bets, Paramount’s stock could be worth a closer look.

Tom Wilton has has had buisness dealings with Netflix and knows the screenwriter of Top Gun: Maverick in a professional capacity, but holds no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Netflix, Roku, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long January 2024 $145 calls on Walt Disney and short January 2024 $155 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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