Streaming, streaming, streaming. A few of us do it day-after-day. As clients have shunned costly conventional cable packages many have chosen streaming as a cheap various.
However what companies do you subscribe to?
Everyone knows the large ones, Netflix (NFLX), and Disney (DIS), however what about Paramount+ (NASDAQ:PARA)?
Personally, I can say that I don’t. And I do not assume I’m alone in that.
Because the streaming market expands, Paramount International faces the daunting process to maintain up with its rivals which boast higher IP, extra capital, or typically each.
Though the corporate has made progress in rising its subscriber base and income by way of its Direct-to-Shopper phase, it’s nonetheless hindered by an awesome debt of over $15 billion. Elevating the query, the place will Paramount go from right here?
Inside this text, I will:
Present an outline of the corporate and business dynamics
Clarify the long-term challenges that Paramount faces
Look at their monetary efficiency and valuation versus friends
The questionable technique of Paramount +
Paramount International’s streaming service, Paramount+, has seen some spectacular development, attracting a report 9.9 million subscribers in This fall of 2022 and reaching virtually 77 million subscribers globally.
In This fall of 2022, DTC income grew by 30% year-over-year, with Paramount+ income growing by 81% and subscription income rising by 48%. On the opposite facet, promoting income solely grew by 4% YoY, indicating that Paramount International’s future development depends closely on its DTC phase, which is a dangerous guess in a market that requires steady funding in content material and know-how at a time when capital may be very, very costly.
When in comparison with Netflix and Disney, Paramount’s content material library merely falls quick, putting it at a drawback in a extremely aggressive market the place firms are spending enormous sums of cash on content material and advertising to draw and retain subscribers.
The online result’s that Paramount will probably be pressured to proceed to put money into costly productions to chase after the streaming market the place client style is at all times in flux.
That is no small process.
But it surely’s not simply highly effective IP they have to deal with, they’ve some deep-pocketed opponents: Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN). Apple has $20B in money and Amazon has $54B, they may throw $2B at content material in a single yr and it barely makes a dent.
Whereas the tech giants sit on piles of money, Paramount sits on piles of “IOUs” vis-a-vis their debt which stands at over $15B. The issue would not cease there, if rates of interest proceed to rise or keep elevated for longer, the stress on the corporate will improve, decreasing its flexibility. Apple and Amazon, with their almost limitless monetary sources, might make it very arduous for Paramount International to outlive this battle.
Though Paramount International has made strides in its Filmed Leisure phase, producing blockbuster movies like Prime Gun: Maverick, its success on this space is inadequate to offset its mounting debt and restricted IP.
Prime Gun, as nice as it’s, is not any Star Wars or Marvel….
An alternate path
Sony’s (SONY) technique differs from Paramount’s in that it licenses its content material to different DTC streamers like Netflix and Disney, relatively than solely relying by itself streaming platform. This strategy permits Sony to profit from a number of income streams whereas additionally increasing the attain of its content material.
Given the challenges of the streaming business and the necessity for important capital funding, it might be advantageous for Paramount to think about growing its scale by licensing its content material to different DTC streamers or merging with a peer.
Doing so would release important sources, albeit on the worth of turning into reliant on a competitor to distribute your individual content material. Nonetheless, regardless of that danger, I’d nonetheless make that transfer. Higher to let your friends compete away all of the revenue utilizing your IP as ammunition relatively than the opposite method round.
Let’s have a look to see how Paramount has fared versus its friends in Income Progress, Return on Invested Capital, and Debt Load.
Paramount has suffered from low income development these previous years and has solely expanded its prime line by 12%. Positive, Discovery (WBD) merged with Warner Bros, and Netflix is a DTC pureplay, however even Disney and Common (CMCSA), two legacy gamers, outgrew Paramount by 30-40% in the timeframe. It is a disturbing pattern that implies to me modifications have to be made.
Return on Invested Capital
One space that was a relative vivid spot for Paramount was its comparatively excessive return on invested capital that it maintained over the previous decade which frequently hovered within the excessive single-digit vary whereas its friends had been within the low-mid single-digit vary. Whereas nonetheless greater than Disney, Warner, and Comcast, we will see that these returns have trended decrease in current quarters suggesting competitors could also be consuming away at earnings.
Debt to Fairness
As talked about earlier, one thing else making the issue worse for Paramount is its excessive stage of debt at 1.4x Monetary Debt to Fairness. That is solely topped by Warner Bros Discovery at 1.7x which took on large sums of debt after they mixed because the asset was spun out from AT&T (T). I view each of those debt ranges as unsustainably excessive and wish to see them lowered to lower than 1x earlier than I might get comfy with them as an funding.
In comparison with the ahead PE ratio of its friends Paramount is cheaply priced at 13.2x ahead earnings, however on an absolute foundation, this can be too excessive in my view. Given its excessive debt load refinancing prices are prone to eat away at earnings and competitors could additional compress profitability.
In conclusion, whereas Paramount has made strides with its streaming service, Paramount+ the corporate nonetheless faces important challenges within the extremely aggressive streaming market. Paramount’s content material library falls quick in comparison with rivals like Netflix and Disney, and the corporate’s overwhelming debt of over $15 billion makes it tough for Paramount to put money into costly productions to draw and retain subscribers. Moreover, the corporate faces deep-pocketed opponents like Apple and Amazon, which have limitless monetary sources to pour into content material and know-how.
Sony’s technique of licensing its content material to different DTC streamers may very well be an alternate path for Paramount, permitting it to release sources and profit from a number of income streams. Paramount’s low income development, declining return on invested capital, and excessive debt load are additionally regarding elements. Whereas Paramount is cheaply priced in comparison with its friends, on an absolute foundation, its valuation could also be too excessive given its challenges.
For these causes, I price Paramount a Promote.