JPMorgan Suggests Bet Against CBS Amid NFL Anthem Controversy

Can President Donald Trump’s attacks on the NFL tank media stocks?

One Wall Street strategist says count on it.

JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Shawn Quigg is encouraging investors to bet against CBS Corp. stock ahead of this weekend’s NFL broadcasts. The bank recommends buying an option that gives you the right to sell the shares at $57.50 on the likelihood that the stock will fall below that price after the company discloses ratings for the games. CBS closed at $58 on Tuesday.

Trump began encouraging fans last week to boycott NFL games, arguing that players were unpatriotic and should be fired for kneeling during the national anthem. The practice of going down on one knee during the anthem was started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a protest against police brutality and mistreatment of black Americans.

Fans didn’t follow the president’s pleas last weekend, when overall ratings were higher than a year earlier.

So far, media investors don’t appear worried. Shares of CBS, which said ratings for last Sunday’s games were up 4 percent from a year earlier, have changed little this week. JPMorgan analyst Alexia Quadrani has an “overweight,” or buy rating, on CBS, with a target price of $75.

Jersey Sales

Quigg also cited NFL jersey sales to see whether fans are souring on the sport.

“NFL-related revenue is not trivial to CBS, and any decline in NFL viewership related to the National Anthem debate may negatively affect future results,” he said in a note to investors Wednesday. “We view this weekend’s viewership results as a cleaner proxy in determining whether the Anthem debate may be a larger issue for the NFL, and CBS, or not.”

Quigg noted that the jersey of Alejandro Villanueva — the only Pittsburgh Steeler to stand on the field during the national anthem during last weekend’s game — was the best-selling jersey in the hours following the player boycott.

“If one uses player jersey sales as a proxy, fans appear to favor an on-field standing presence during the Anthem,” he said in the note.

Overnight ratings for all Sunday and Monday NFL games were up 3 percent as a whole, Michael Mulvihill, executive vice president of research at Fox Sports, tweeted Tuesday.

But NFL ad revenue makes up 10 percent of CBS’s total revenue, Quigg said. And ratings for the games declined last season and in the first two weeks of this season.

While some might view the controversy as a short-term threat to ratings, another week of lackluster viewership this weekend could “mobilize investors to take the potential impact more seriously,” the bank said.

    Read more: