Next Week's Big News: Couch Potatoes Cutting Cable, Chinese Dot-Coms, Satellite Radio, Zipcar, Gamers
A lot of big-name companies reported earnings in July, but Wall Street's not leaving for vacation just yet. There are plenty of headliners set to report in August. Here's a preview of what's in store next week.
1. Couch Potatoes Cutting the Cable Cord: The country's largest cable and satellite television providers step up for their quarterly results next week.
Comcast (CMCSA) is the top dog in the cable space, but keep an eye on its video subscribers. Comcast hasn't had any problem growing its Internet and broadband telephone accounts, but it's been shedding traditional cable subscribers for several quarters now.
Comcast and its smaller cable rivals' inability to sign more new television subscribers than those canceling their accounts led industry watchers to wonder if cord-cutting was the new normal. It proved to be a temporary blip, but cable subscribers continue to trade in their boxes for satellite television setups and cheaper broadband television offerings.
Satellite giant DirecTV (DTV) hasn't suffered net defections, and a lot of that success has been the result of its exclusivity with the NFL Sunday Ticket. There are fewer companies that are happier than DirecTV to see the football lockout lifted and teams readying themselves for the upcoming season.
2. China Goes Online: Several of China's leading dot-coms will be reporting their latest financials early next week.
Ctrip.com (CTRP) is the country's largest online travel portal. Sohu.com (SOHU) runs many popular websites, making it one of China's leaders in display advertising. Changyou.com (CYOU) operates online multiplayer games that are popular in Chinese Internet cafes. 51job (JOBS) turned a modest weekly print publication of regional job openings into a magnetic employment recruiting website.
All four companies are expected to post strong bottom-line growth, and it's easy to see why profitability is booming. China's economy is still growing at a healthy clip, and the online migration rate for the world's most populous nation continues to improve with every passing quarter.
3. Sirius Talks -- Sort Of: Satellite radio has come into its own lately. Sirius XM Radio (SIRI) has grown into a profitable media giant with more than 20 million subscribers.
It will report what should be another profitable quarter come Tuesday morning, though investors will want a little more color on where it goes from here.
The company expects to roll out Sirius XM 2.0 -- a new platform for its next generation of Sirius and XM receivers -- this year. The new receivers will be able to access more content and have more interactive features, though the company has yet to officially reveal everything that the new gadgets will do. Will the company be up to sharing more information about the update that it has only promised will hit the market later this year?
There's also the widespread conviction that monthly rates will inch higher next year. When? How much? The company is unlikely to go public with those details until it is advantageous to do so, but you just know analysts will ask.
4. Zipcar Hits a Speed Bump: It's been three months since Zipcar (ZIP) went public. Shares of the popular car-sharing service have been trading in a tight range in the low $20s through July, but that may change next week: Zipcar reports its quarterly results Wednesday.
Wall Street is braced for another loss, but investors will want to keep an eye on the number of people paying to have access to Zipcar's fleet of hourly rentals. Going public generates welcome publicity for a consumer-facing company, and it will be interesting to see if Zipcar's IPO helps boost its niche leadership position.
If traditional auto rentals are more your speed, Avis Budget (CAR) also reports Wednesday.
5. Game On Between Gaming Rivals: The country's largest video game software company will drop the controller long enough to grab a handful of Doritos, swig some Mountain Dew, and talk about its latest quarter. Activision Blizzard (ATVI) has momentum heading into its report, even if the industry has been mostly in a funk over the past two years. Its nearest rival -- Electronic Arts (ERTS) -- posted better-than-expected results this week and raised its near-term guidance.
Activision Blizzard should be on top of the world with its Call of Duty and World of Warcraft franchises, but it's been a challenge to win over casual gamers who seem to be just fine with free ad-supported smartphone apps and social games. Die-hard gamers will always be there for Activision Blizzard, but that may not be enough.