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Cable Technology Feature Article

August 24, 2011

Analyst Adjusts Video Firm Price Targets

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

Sanford Bernstein cable and satellite analyst Craig Moffett reduced his 12-month targets for a handful of cable and satellite stocks and raised them slightly for Comcast and Time Warner (News - Alert) Cable. Equity prices aren’t everything, reflecting the overall state of financial markets as well as firm performance and the strategic backdrop.

Cable and satellite lost more customers than ever in the second quarter, which has fueled some fears that cord-cutting is accelerating. Beyond that, opinion is split. Some argue that most of the losses are customers abandoning subscription TV to save money. Others think users might be switching to online video.

It wouldn’t be accurate to say there is a massive trend for U.S. households to substitute online video for linear subscription TV services. That just isn’t happening. But there is evidence of slippage.

Such substitution is only “nascent,” but could grow if content owners decide to provide the content in that way, said Time Warner Chief Operating Officer Landel Hobbs. Though it remains largely true that Americans are not rushing to cancel their subscription TV services, as a survey by the Consumer Electronics Association suggests, neither would it be true to say the phenomenon is not growing.

But 10 percent of survey respondents say they are “very likely” or “likely” to cancel their linear video service. And about 14 percent say they “might” do so. That is consistent with many other recent surveys.

CEA’s research suggests that 76 percent of U.S. consumers have no interest in cancelling their multichannel video TV service, with 51 percent reporting they are “very unlikely” to cancel TV service. Glass Half Full on Video Cord Cutting?

But some would say that leaves plenty of room for changes. Fully 60 percent of survey respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 are either leaning towards or seriously considering giving up multichannel video services, a survey by Ideas and Solutions has found.

"Cost was the major factor in cord-cutters decisions, with 69 percent of "at-risk" respondents and 61 percent of "leaners" citing it as the primary reason for cutting the cord. Lots of younger users would cut the cord.

While Netflix, Hulu, YouTube (News - Alert) and the like don't offer video services comparable with pay TV, "when faced with a choice of pay TV or a third meal, will some customers choose to make do with a back catalog or off-the-run TV shows and movies?," asked Craig Moffett, Sanford C. Bernstein analyst. "Of course they will. Sixty percent of Generation Y leans toward cord cutting.

Moffett had the harshest view for Cablevision Systems (News - Alert), reducing his 12-month price target for the stock from $27 per share to $20 per share, citing disappointing second quarter results and his expectation for further losses.

Moffett made slight adjustments to his targets for Dish Network (reducing it from $31 to $30 per share) and for DirecTV (News - Alert) (from $51 to $49 per share), predicting continued "profitability but diminished subscriber growth prospects ahead."

Moffett did raise his 12-month price target for Comcast to $32 from $31 per share. Time Warner Cable’s 12-month price target was raised to $88 per share from $83 per share. Moffat rethinks cable valuations.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO (News - Alert) offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.

Gary Kim is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin