Coronavirus Panic Impact on Media Stocks

Fears around the impact an outbreak of Coronavirus will have upon the U.S. economy saw record declines in the stock market beginning last week. The majority of companies operating in media, both big tech and traditional entertainment, felt the pain, with only Netflix entering March valued more than they were in February.

The traditional entertainment companies, comprising MVPDs, network groups and major studios, had their market caps fall by $91.8 billion (6.4%). The four big tech firms (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple) saw $281.8 billion wiped off their valuations, or a decline of 7.1%.

Variety Intelligence Platform’s analysis of the sector divides these companies into four groups based upon the degree of impact:

  • Gainers, those who began March valued higher than they were at the start of February, in spite of the virus paranoia.
  • Slightly impacted, where market cap declined by less than 5%.
  • Moderately impacted, with 5%-10% declines.
  • Strongly impacted, with declines of over 10%.

Only Netflix gained. The streamers value increased by 3%, or $4.7 billion, with investors speculating that the service will see more subscribers should swathes of the population be quarantined. 

Those companies slightly impacted included a large number of companies with MVPD and broadband distribution components (Altice USA, AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon), with Altice USA the only MVPD distributor that specializes only in MVPD and broadband service to see moderate declines.  

One reason why the MVPDs were not hit as hard as cable companies may be that they carry multiple news channels as well as the national broadcast networks. In a pandemic, it can be assumed that people would be keeping their cable service in order to keep up to date.

Amazon was the only big tech company with a media component to see a slight decline, down by $47 billion or 4.8%. Finishing up the slightly impacted companies is WWE, which declined by $0.1 billion (-2.5%). WWE’s value has stayed consistent in spite of a lackluster Q2 performance, as investors are banking on rumors that WWE will be licensing out their pay-per-view events to ESPN+ and increasing its revenue stream. 

The moderately impacted companies included the remaining big tech companies with media holdings, with Apple down 6.3% (-$85.4 billion), Facebook by 9% (-$52.2 billion) and Google by 9.5% (-$97.1 billion). MVPD specialist Charter rounds up the moderate declines, down by $8.1 billion or 7%.

Those entertainment firms most impacted by the panic are mostly companies with extensive cable network operations: Discovery, AMC, Fox, Disney and ViacomCBS. Lionsgate and Sony are also there, in part due to the fears around movie going, which will be severely curtailed should Coronavirus begin to spread more aggressively in the U.S., as other stricken countries have limited public gatherings. Satellite MVPD operator Dish is also in the strongly impacted group.

The decline among the cable networks may in part be due to the advertising slump that’s already been noted at the New York Times. With cable companies partly dependent upon advertising revenues, any decline will hit their bottom lines. On top of that, Discovery, AMC and ViacomCBS all had their quarterly earnings calls around the period that the virus panic began to ramp up, with ViacomCBS in particular already seeing their valuation slide before fears magnified this.

Fears around the impact of the virus are therefore most tightly clustered around movie studios and entertainment networks. Broadly, the market seems to recognize that content will still be consumed, be it Netflix or via MVPDs or the internet these companies also provide. 




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