Don’t tell Wells Fargo Securities’ Marci Ryvicker that Big Media are washed up as infotainment power shifts to tech giants such as Google and Apple. The long-time analyst of broadcasting and pay TV companies initiated coverage of diversified media today observing that CBS, News Corp, and Time Warner are likely to outperform the overall market while Disney and Viacom keep pace. “We have seen enough evidence over the past six months to support the fact that diversified media is healthy, that MUST-HAVE content WILL be monetized, and that there is still significant growth in this business,” she says in her inaugural report on the sector. She’s encouraged by the prospects for TV Everywhere — where pay TV companies make it possible for subscribers to watch their shows on mobile devices. In addition, Ryvicker says that since last summer “programmers have become more protective of their content, which should protect long term monetization.” She likes the fact that Netflix is “healthy enough to continue to purchase content, but not strong enough to significantly disrupt the current ecosystem.” And media moguls have learned their lessons from the last decade’s disastrous mega-mergers which means “the era of ’empire building’ may be behind us.” Ryvicker acknowledges that the sector would be vulnerable if the economy weakens. She also has concerns about some of the companies she’s following. For example, she fears that Disney will struggle to keep ESPN growing, that there’ll be little if any pick up in its box office sales after a “dismal” year, and that ABC’s performance “is just ‘eh’.” She’s also staying on the sidelines with Viacom: As Disney becomes a more vigorous challenger to Nickelodeon, there’s “more downside risk than upside” to Viacom’s ad sales. Meanwhile, Paramount might find it hard to match its successful run in 2011.
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