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Media Stocks Get "New" Label: Negative

Media Money
CNBC.com
Media Money

Lehman Brothers analyst Anthony DiClemente returned from July 4 weekend with a negative outlook on the media giants, downgrading the entire sector to negative. DiClemente--a frequent guest on CNBC--is concerned that digital distribution changes will "disrupt the core economic models of the majority of film and TV content."

Sure, media companies have been distributing digitally for a while, but DiClemente argues that the new model hasn't only marginally cannibalized the old model, and now there's no way the declining DVD (so-called "packaged media") business can be offset by new digital media revenues. The home video business is one in flux for the media giants, and here DiClemente comes out with a negative perspective.

Lehman lowered its rating on Disney to underweight, raising concerns about the impact of the economy on the theme park business, and challenges to the ABC networks and TV stations. DiClemente also pointing out the premium DIS trades at compared to some of the other media companies. This sent DIS down 2.65 percent Monday. CBS Corpalso got dropped to an underweight, slammed by concerns about radio and TV advertising declines. It also appears that DiClemente is anxious about how CNET might be value-dilutive.

Then there's the analyst's "Equal Weight" companies; DiClemente lowered News Corp's rating to Equal Weight, dropping its price target from $26 to $15. Here the concern is exposure to the struggling newspaper business as well as the TV industry. Time Warner also got slashed to an Equal Weight. Again, print advertising raised concerns, here with Time Inc. And no surprise considering news surrounding TWXof late, questions about usage of the Time Warner Cable dividend and the future of AOL raised concerns. He lowered Viacom's price target from $46 to $32 but maintained its "Equal Weight" rating. Here the company's saving grace are its new Rock Band video game business, the stability affiliate fees provide, and the balance of international expansion.

It's a pretty negative outlook on an industry that's already been beaten down, underperforming the market. He's more negative than most, particularly on Disney, which hasn't *yet* seen the economy negative impact its parks business. But it does raise some very interesting questions, ones I'll be sure to ask the media CEOs at the Allen and Co. conference in Sun Valley this week.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.