The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:Discovery Communications, Scripps Networks Interactive, Amazon.com, Time Warner Cable and Healthways

CHICAGO, Jan. 15, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include the Discovery Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: DISCA-Free Report), Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. (NYSE: SNI-Free Report), Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN-Free Report), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC-Free Report) and Healthways Inc. (Nasdaq: HWAY-Free Report).

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Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

Here are highlights from Tuesday's Analyst Blog:

Discovery Quits Scripps Takeover Plan

According to reports by the Wall Street Journal, Discovery Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: DISCA-Free Report) has abandoned its plan to acquire Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. (NYSE: SNI-Free Report). In Nov 2013, VARIETY reported that Discovery is considering a bid to acquire Scripps Networks.

However, the discussion between the companies did not cross the preliminary stage as the family that controls Scripps Networks showed reluctance to the selloff. The Scripps family owns a 43% stake in the company.

Nevertheless, we believe that a merger between Discovery Communications and Scripps Networks would significantly benefit both entities. Discovery Communications has a diversified content network. Its flagship Discovery channel is known as a nature channel. Similarly, Animal Planet is a wildlife channel.

The company has a military channel, an ownership interest in Oprah Winfrey Network and has recently acquired the SBS Nordic operations of Prosiebensat.1 Media AG. Moreover, Discovery Communications is a geographically diversified company operating in more than 200 countries with over 100 TV networks.

On the other hand, Scripps Networks is a pure-play lifestyle TV network consisting of six channels. All these cable channels have loyal audiences, who also view the company's content in several non-TV platforms. This helps Scripps Networks to explore the non-TV verticals, such as magazines (print media) and websites (Internet). The company also acquired Asian Food Channel, a leading food-focused pay-TV network in Asia.

Additionally, both the companies are gradually depending on the video streaming or the TVEverywhere platform. Scripps Networks has a content licensing deal with Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN-Free Report) through which its popular TV channels are available on Amazon's subscription-based video streaming service – Prime Instant Video.

Discovery Communications recently renewed its agreement with Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC-Free Report) to offer its content on the TVEverywhere platform of the latter. Currently, Scripps Networks has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) while Discovery carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell).

Healthways Lowered to Underperform

On Jan 13, we downgraded our recommendation on Healthways Inc. (Nasdaq: HWAY-Free Report) to Underperform from Neutral. We are disappointed about HWAY's third-quarter 2013 results as both the company's top line and bottom line lagged the respective Zacks Consensus Estimate. Further, the company lowered its 2013 guidance based on the dismal results in the first nine months of 2013.

Why Downgraded?

On Oct 24, Healthways' earnings per share dropped by a whopping 66.7% to 5 cents from the year-ago level of 15 cents and also missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 11 cents. Net income came in at $1.8 million, down 64% from $5.0 million a year ago.

Lower participation in the company's wellness programs as a result of significant headwind in the underlying industry, led to the downfall. Moreover, management had overestimated the number of risk lives available in 2013 for its total population management services to health systems.

Revenues remained flat year over year at $166.6 million in the quarter, trailing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $185 million. However, excluding the two terminal contracts (including the one with Cigna Corp.), revenues improved 14.2% year over year.

HWAY scaled down its full year-2013 revenue expectations to the range of $665–675 million from the earlier range of $710–$750 million. Fourth-quarter revenues are forecasted in the band of $171 to $181 million.

Healthways also tweaked its bottom-line outlook to reflect slower-than-anticipated market transition rate of risk-based lives to Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). Management anticipates loss per share of about 4 cents to 10 cents compared with the prior outlook of earnings per share of 18 cents–28 cents for 2013. Fourth-quarter 2013 earnings are expected in the range of nil to 6 cents.

Following the release of third quarter results, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 earnings fell significantly to a loss of 7 cents from earnings of 22 cents. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2014 earnings also declined 48.1% to 28 cents per share. Currently, HWAY retains a Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell).

Uncertainty about healthcare reform and a sluggish economy exert a negative impact on new business. Continued high unemployment in the U.S. implies fewer lives covered by employer sponsored or commercial health plans. This reduces the number of billable lives using Healthways' disease management services, and consequently the company's revenues.

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

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