Q3 was a lousy period to own media stocks. The sector fell 11% in the three months that ended today, based on the Dow Jones U.S. Media Index. That wiped out the 3.4% gain in Q2 and 1.1% lift in Q1. By contrast, the S&P 500 fell 7% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 7.6%.
Investors never recovered from the shock they felt on August 4 when Disney said that it would fall short of a financial estimate for cable due to bigger than expected sub losses at ESPN. That seemed to confirm nascent concerns about cord cutting, and the growing sense of malaise about pay TV.
The slowdown in China’s economy further weakened the case for media companies that hope to grow by exporting content to the enormous market.
All of the Big Media stocks lost ground in Q3. Viacom (-33.2%) led the group followed by CBS (-28.1%), Discovery (-21.8%), Time Warner (-21.3%), Fox (-17.1%), Sony (-13.7%), Disney (-10.5%), and Comcast (-5.4%).
With the Q3 drops, all of the major conglomerates are down so far in 2015 except for Sony (+19.7%) and Disney (+8.5%). Viacom (-42.7%) and Fox (-29.8%) fell in each of the last three quarters.
Looking more broadly, DreamWorks Animation (-33.9%) was the biggest Q3 loser on our watch list. Other decliners include Tribune Media (-33.3%), Yahoo (-26.4%), Twitter (25.6%), Scripps Networks (-24.8%), Carmike Cinemas (-24.3%), and RealD (-22.1%).
It’s not surprising that the big winner in the quarter among the companies we follow most closely was Cablevision Systems: It was up 35.6% in the three month period after it agreed to sell itself to Luxembourg-based Altice.
Other winners include Activision Blizzard (+27.6%), Google (+18.2%), Amazon (+13.8%), Netflix (+10.0%), Facebook (+4.8%), and Charter Communications (+2.4%).