Can 'Mall Cop' Save Media Earnings?

Disney , Time Warner and News Corp all report earnings this week. As investors try to discern whether ad spending slowed as much as the firms had anticipated, what's the media trade?

For insights we turn Pali Capital analyst Rich Greenfield.

“Ad sales will weigh on the space, there’s no question about it,” Greenfield tells Fast Money. “However national advertising should hold up better.” That’s because national brands are still doing everything possible to get exposure on national TV!

Here's a closer look at the media giants ahead of earnings.

News Corp
(reports Thursday after the bell)

When the economy cratered last fall, News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch quickly told investors his media empire would feel the pain. So far, Murdoch has resisted big cuts for his 60,000-plus employees: News Corp's shares have fallen 67 percent in the past 12 months.

If Murdoch wants to keep the business healthy, it is time to make "hard decisions" and prune older media like papers, Greenfield says. "We are concerned that the News Corp growth story, propelled by cable networks and Sky Italia, will be far less exciting over the next few years."

(reports on Tuesday after the bell)

Slowing advertising revenue and declining attendance at its theme parks forced Disney to cut jobs. However, on a brigther note, Disney's studio released a number of hit movies in the quarter, including "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," "High School Musical 3: Senior Year," "Bolt," and "Bedtime Stories."

"Disney will tell us what's going on in the economy on both the theme park side and the broadcast side I expect to hear it's definitely getting worse," says Greenfield.

Analysts, on average, expect Disney to post a 3 percent decline in revenue to $10.1 billion, with earnings per share down 11 cents to 52 cents, according to Thomson Reuters.

Time Warner
(reports earnings Wednesday before the bell.)

Investors will probably scour Time Warner’s results for clues about how badly the economy is hurting the cable TV industry.

Time Warner Cable disclosed last month that it will take a $15 billion noncash charge to write down the value of cable franchise rights, as well as a $350 million charge related to a wireless broadband investment.

Analysts, on average, expect earnings of 32 cents per share excluding items and revenue of $4.41 billion, according to a Thomson Reuters survey.

What’s the media trade?

Forget Disney and Time Warner, at least for the time being.

According to Greenfield, his favorite media play is long Cablevision , which he thinks has "a high quality asset base and they're doing a lot better than people think." Or, he adds, look at Viacom .

Or if you’re looking for a stock to short, Grreenfield suggests CBS and News Corp .

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Trader disclosure: On Feb. 2nd, 2008, the following stocks and commodities mentioned or intended to be mentioned on CNBC’s Fast Money were owned by the Fast Money traders; Seymour Owns (AAPL), (BAC), (EEM), (FXI); Macke Owns (DIS), (MS), (SDS), (MCD); Finerman's Firm Owns (DNA) & (DNA) Call Spread; Finerman's Firm Owns (MSFT), (XBI), (IBB); Finerman's Firm Is Short (IYR), (IJR), (IWM), (MDY), (SPY), (USO); Najarian Owns (AMGN) Call Spread; Najarian Owns (BMY) Calls; Najarian Owns (DRYS) Stock & (DRYS) Puts; Najarian Owns (EEM) Call Spread; Najarian Owns (FCX) & (FCX) Short Calls; Najarian Owns (GDX) Call Spread; Najarian Owns (MSFT) & (MSFT) Short Calls; Najarian Owns (MS) & (MS) Short Calls/Put Spread; Najarian Owns (V) Call Spread