Wednesday, 20 July 2016

A Guided Tour of the Market 8


Media companies generate cash by producing or delivering a message to the public. The message, or content, can take several shapes, including video, audio, or print.

Companies that rely on one-time user fees sometimes suffer volatile cash flows because they're heavily affected by the success of numerous individual products, such as newly released films or novels. While having a string of hits can result in a bonanza for the firm, the converse is also true: Several flops in a row can lead to disaster. This uncertainty can make it difficult to forecast future cash flows.

Subscription-based businesses are generally more attractive than one-time user fee businesses because subscription revenue tends to be predictable, which makes forecasting and planning easier and reduces the risk of the business. There is another advantage to subscriptions: Subscribers pay upfront for services that are delivered at a later date.

Companies with advertising-based models can enjoy decent profit margins, which are often enhanced by high operating leverage. The reason for the high operating leverage is that most of the cost in an advertising-based model is fixed. [...] However, advertising revenue streams can be somewhat volatile – advertising is one of the first costs that company executives cut when the economy turns south, which is why advertising revenue growth tends to move with the business cycle.

Media firms enjoy a number of competitive advantages that help them generate consistent free cash flows, with economies of scale, monopolies, and unique intangible assets being the most prevalent. Economies of scale are especially important in publishing and broadcasting, whereas monopolies come into play in the cable and newspaper industries. Unique intangible assets such as licenses, trademarks, copyrights, and brand names are important across the sector.

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