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Jefferies' Brent Thill: Buy Facebook as Video Offering Will Be Huge

Jefferies' Brent Thill: Buy Facebook as Video Offering Will Be Huge
(Daniel Draghi/DreamsTime)

By    |   Wednesday, 20 December 2017 03:42 PM

Jefferies analyst Brent Thill is advising savvy investors to buy Facebook Inc. stock now because its new video offering will be a blockbuster success.

"We think Facebook's 'Watch' tab extends its reach into user's video consumption. The 'Watch' tab should drive video engagement and will also provide additional network effects and sharing," analyst Brent Thill wrote in a note to clients Wednesday.

"We like FB's data-driven approach to content creation and partner rev. share agreements as it manages content investment," CNBC quoted Thill as saying.

Thill reiterated his $225 price target for Facebook shares. The target is almost 20 percent higher than its current price. Facebook shares were trading at about $178 late Wednesday.

Facebook launched its Watch video service to U.S. users in August with plans to allow people to submit shows, as the No. 1 social media network vies with Alphabet Inc’s YouTube for advertising revenue.

Advertisers are shifting more of their budgets from television to online as viewers have migrated to watching shows on smartphones and tablets, Reuters reported.

On Watch, which Facebook began testing earlier this month, users can see hundreds of shows from the likes of Vox, Buzzfeed, Discovery Communications Inc., A&E Networks, Walt Disney Co.’s ABC, as well as live sports like Major League Baseball.

For his part, Thill predicts Watch could grow to $12 billion in revenue by 2022.

"We believe this will be 'snackable' content versus more premium long-form content which should help drive time spent, more repeat visits," he wrote.

We "see Facebook as one of the best positioned digital players to capitalize on an ad-funded model given Facebook's industry leading advertising technology, user data, and targeting capabilities," he wrote.

Americans spend more than 73 minutes a day watching digital video, up more than 7 percent from last year, according to eMarketer data. TV watching has dropped 2 percent from last year to 244 minutes a day, a trend that is expected to continue.

Facebook is initially paying some content creators for shows to drive interest. The company is paying $10,000-$35,000 for shorter form shows and up to $250,000 for longer shows, sources told Reuters in May.

The company declined to comment on how much it was spending on shows.

Facebook does not intend to make buying content a core piece of its strategy, Dan Rose, vice president of partnerships at Facebook, told Reuters.

Meanwhile, investors last month shrugged off Facebook's strong quarterly results and worried about the cost of the company’s decision to spend more on preventing misuse of the world’s biggest social media network.

The stock is up more than 50 percent this year, tempting investors who have profited from its run higher to cash in their gains at the first hint of trouble, Reuters explained.

The social media giant reported a 79 percent surge in quarterly profit and revenues were up nearly 50 percent, showing just how insulated Facebook’s business remains from the political criticism of the company which has dominated recent months.

“Results were good for Facebook, but the forward spending is a concern,” Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh said.

At least 13 brokerages raised their price target on shares in the world’s largest social network following last month's quarterly results, with RBC Capital Markets making the most bullish move and raising its target by $35 to $230. The median price target was $208.

“Yes, we take foreign meddling in U.S. elections very seriously. Call it what it is – political warfare. And countering will – and should – raise the cost of doing business for FB,” RBC Capital analyst Mark Mahaney said.

“But that business is inherently extremely impressive.”

Facebook has faced criticism in Washington over its failure to prevent Russian operatives from using it for election meddling and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said he would increase spending on security and double the 10,000 staff who review content on the network in response.

The company said the spending would hit profits, with expenses overall expected to grow by between 45 and 60 percent next year.

Of the four high-performing technology stocks beloved of investors this year, Facebook is a close second behind Netflix in performance, reflecting growing confidence in its model and power with advertisers.

The company continues to increase its more than 2 billion regular user base. Its two messaging services, Messenger and WhatsApp, have more than 1 billion users each and the average price per ad rose 35 percent in the third quarter, Wednesday’s results showed.

Barclays analyst Ross Sandler said the company “should have plenty of runway for years to come – and remains a core holding for any internet investor.”

(Newsmax wire services contributed to this report).

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Jefferies analyst Brent Thill is advising savvy investors to buy Facebook Inc. stock now because its video offering will be a blockbuster success.
jefferies, facebook, video, blockbuster
Wednesday, 20 December 2017 03:42 PM
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