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News Corp (NWSA), Gannett Co., Inc. (GCI): Do Media Companies Get Better by Ditching Print?

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News Corp (NASDAQ:NWSA) recently spun off its video assets as

Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (NASDAQ:FOXA). That continues the trend of companies divesting their struggling print businesses to focus more heavily on growing assets. Is it the right move?
Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE:GCI)

A dying business

Newspapers, magazines, and books are all in decline because of digital media. News Corp (NASDAQ:NWSA)’s move to free its cable, television, and movie assets from its print businesses was, thus, well received. Investors pushed the new company’s shares up a meager 2%, but that left the company with a valuation in excess of media industry leader The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS), according to Reuters’ analysis.

Sum of the parts

The pure play Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (NASDAQ:FOXA) has notable assets, so it probably deserves a rich valuation. For example, it owns Fox News and regional sports networks that would be hard to replicate and succeed side by side with sports giant ESPN. Its movie and television library is also quite large at a time when such content is increasingly in demand online. And it owns cable and pay television assets.

Since the break only just occurred, there’s no clean numbers to use as a comparison tool. However, it’s hard to believe that the company is worth more than The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS). Investors should probably watch the shares for a pullback after the euphoria of the break wears off.

News Corp (NASDAQ:NWSA), meanwhile, is left with a large and challenged newspaper division. That includes the iconic Wall Street Journal and its loyal business customer base. In fact, the Journal is one of the few papers that’s been able to charge for content and get away with it. It also has a number of valuable assets in foreign markets with a digital angle to them, like online real estate ads.

With investors focusing on Twenty-First Century’s solid video position, investors might be interested in News Corp (NASDAQ:NWSA). Shares traded lower after the break and could continue to do so as investors view it as just a print company. However, based on the assets it owns, being tagged as a print company isn’t exactly appropriate.

It’s how you do it

The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS), notably, provides an interesting comparison to consider. The company’s strength is clearly its video content. That led it to sell its Hyperion book business. However, it kept control of its kids books. In effect it only jettisoned its adult books. While this transaction probably got overlooked by many investors, it shows that the right printed media has value in the new world.

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