Media Stocks Bounce Back After Cord-Cutting Panic

Shares of Viacom, which fell 21 percent on Thursday to $39.28, closed on Friday at $45.42

A rocky week on Wall Street ended positively for many traditional media companies whose stock prices nose-dived on Thursday amid panic about cord-cutting and other existential threats to the entertainment industry.

Subscriber losses at ESPN and a poor Disney forecast sparked a mass sell-off of stock in that company as well as in Viacom, 21st Century Fox, Comcast, CBS, Time Warner, Discovery Communications, Scripps Networks Interactive and AMC Networks stock.

But by Friday, many of those companies closed the trading week in better positions.

Viacom, which was hit hardest as shares fell 21 percent on Thursday, was up Friday compared to its Thursday low of $39.28, closing trading at $45.42.

Disney also bounced back, trading above its Thursday low point of $102.24, closing Friday at $109.35; 21st Century Fox was up from $28.41, finishing Friday at $30.38; CBS ticked up from a Thursday low of $47.83 to $50.16; Comcast spiked from a low of $57.17 wrapping the week at $58.82; Time Warner shot up from a lot of $74.12 to a $80.15 close; AMC was up from a low of $28.27, finishing Friday at $29.60; Discovery was up from a low of $28.20 to $29.44.

Wall Street analyst Alan Wolk says more than cord-cutting is at play in the stocks rollercoaster.

“Everything can be traced back to what I call “waiting for Nielsen” – the whole industry is waiting for Nielsen to follow through on its promise to start measuring OTT views. Once this happens (probably late Fall 2015) ratings will pick up as all those “lost” viewers are found again.”

“Networks don’t push OTT now because they can’t make money off of it– the views are not counted, he continued. “Once they are counted, OTT (both real time and time-shifted) will pick up. Viewers at home don’t care how they get the signal, so long as they can watch it whenever and wherever.”

Even with the media stock bounce-back, the long-term future for many of these legacy companies will be impacted by the increasing loss of pay-TV subscribers as young people toss their TVs in favor of second-screen platforms.