5 Things to Watch This Week: Black Friday, Christmas Movies, ESP Music, Snacking Stocks and TiVo

The holiday shopping season officially kicks off on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Actually, make that during Thanksgiving for some retailers. Here's a rundown of some of the items that will shape this holiday week.

1. Black Friday meets Gray Thursday: After a couple of years of economic funk, retailers aren't taking any chances. Just as Friday morning door-buster deals have morphed into midnight releases, it seems as if some enterprising retailers want to take advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday to make the most of their shuttered rivals.

Walmart (WMT), Toys R Us, and Gap (GPS) are just some of the major chains that are jumping the Black Friday gun and opening their doors for special holiday hours on Thursday.

The big question: Will shoppers come? Thanksgiving is traditionally a day to get stuffed on turkey and cranberry sauce with the family. Will folks give up the traditional feasts or what are now three NFL games to work their way out to the local strip mall to begin checking off holiday wish lists? Even Santa doesn't know.

2. Bringing it to the table: It may be merely a coincidence, but several companies playing an edible role in Thanksgiving feasts around the country will actually be reporting their latest quarterly results this week.

Canned soup behemoth Campbell Soup (CPB), cured-ham maker Hormel (HRL), and poultry giant Tyson Foods (TSN) are all stepping up to the earnings stage this week.

If you're running short on prep time, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store (CBRL) -- which reports its latest financials on Tuesday -- offers complete feast takeout.

3. Don't forget to TiVo this earnings report: One of the few companies reporting during the abridged trading week is TiVo (TIVO). It's hard to get overly excited about the DVR pioneer. The company has been posting losses and shedding subscribers over the past few quarters.

The one place where TiVo has been gaining some serious headway is through the enforcement of its digital video recorder patents. TiVo was recently awarded a juicy nine-figure settlement from satellite television giant DISH Network (DISH), but there are still a few other pay television companies offering their subscribers knock-off DVRs that may very well be infringing on TiVo's patents there.

TiVo's biggest challenge is convincing couch potatoes that they need DVRs. It's a hard sell these days. TiVo introduced the $499 TiVo Premiere Elite two months ago. Armed with four tuners, it allows owners to record four different shows while they watch a fifth. Is this even necessary these days? Not only is there just not that much content worth watching, but most broadcasters and cable companies offer up encore presentations on demand of episodes viewers may have missed, usually for free.

4. Pass the $8 tub of popcorn, please: Exhibitors know that families eventually get cabin fever during the Thanksgiving holiday, and movie studios are there to make sure that there's plenty of family-friendly fare playing at the corner multiplex.
There are three movies opening this week, all vying for the family dollar. Arthur Christmas, Hugo, and The Muppets will all open on Wednesday.

The likely winner will be Disney's (DIS) Muppets reboot, but don't sell Hugo short. It's Martin Scorsese's handiwork -- and, yes, despite Scorsese's history of violent films, this one is definitely gunning for the family market this holiday season.

5. Boxing Pandora: One of the more intriguing companies reporting this week is Pandora Media (P) -- the company behind the popular music discovery website that delivers customized tracks by breaking down the "genetic" characteristics of the songs that you already like. It reports on Tuesday.

Pandora's a hit with the public. Its website and mobile app get busier with every passing quarter. Revenue more than doubled in Pandora's latest quarter, as the company served up 1.8 billion hours of tunes.

Monetizing digital music has been tricky with a free ad-supported model. You can't wedge in too many ads, or folks will go back to their MP3 collections. You also have to keep the advertising aural, especially these days, when folks are streaming on the go. Pandora is expected to post a small deficit next week. Analysts will want to know how far away the company is from sustainable profitability, but they'll also want to make sure that Pandora is holding up given the recent arrival of Spotify in this country and the beefed-up iHeartRadio app.

Tune in. Why not?

Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not owns shares in any of the stocks in this article, except for Disney and Cracker Barrel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Gap and Walmart Stores. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Walmart Stores and Walt Disney. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in Walmart Stores.


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Are you better off under Obama? Got hope? Need Change?

November 21 2011 at 10:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply