Fox, Warner Bros Discovery And Comcast Stocks Dip After Major News Breaks About Tucker Carlson, Don Lemon And Jeff Shell

Fox, Comcast and Warner Bros Discovery shares each took a dip Monday after the media companies took turns generating industry-shaking headlines over less than 24 hours.

Comcast announced Sunday that NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell had left the company due to an inappropriate relationship with a colleague. Fox and WBD on Monday delivered equally stunning news they had parted ways with prominent hosts Tucker Carlson of Fox News and Don Lemon of CNN, respectively.

The three stocks fell between 1% and 3%, with Fox taking the biggest hit to close at $32.64, while Comcast finished at $37.21 and WBD at $13.36. Trading volume was light for WBD and Comcast, but more than three times heavier than normal levels for Fox. The overall media sector was mostly in the red on a day when the broader markets were close to break-even.

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The three bits of news have distinct implications for the respective financial outlooks of each entity. Fox, which heavily relies on Fox News and collects about $100 million in annual advertising revenue for Carlson’s show, immediately saw its shares plunge 4% after the news of the host’s ouster. The move follows Fox’s decision to pay $787.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed against Dominion Voting Systems. Fox News had aired a number of segments questioning the firm’s role in the 2020 election, repeating debunked claims of fraud. It still faces a suit by voting tech firm Smartmatic as well as various shareholder suits.

For Comcast, NBCU is a key asset but one that generates about one-third of its total revenue. The jolt of Shell’s sudden ouster has been offset to some degree by the layers of corporate management surrounding the entertainment content part of the company, which makes most of its money providing broadband and pay-TV service. Shell’s duties have been absorbed on an interim basis by Comcast President Mike Cavanagh, a trusted corporate lieutenant who is well-respected in financial circles.

CNN, meanwhile, is not seen as central to the investment thesis of WBD but the news network still throws off significant cash flow and carries symbolic weight in the portfolio. In terms of programming strategy, however, it has been one of the most problematic pieces of the $43 billion merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery, which closed in April 2022.

As the new corporate parent has looked to add more political balance and deliver more down-the-middle broadcasts, Lemon was also mobilized for a revamp of the network’s morning show. In a change from his previous solo run in primetime, Lemon had not managed to generate consistent chemistry as one of three anchors, with Kaitlin Collins and Poppy Harlow, of CNN This Morning. The situation worsened in February when Lemon was forced to apologize for on-air comments about 51-year-old Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley not being “in her prime.”

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