3 Top Cable Stocks to Buy Now

By Rick Munarriz Markets Fool.com

It may seem hard to get into the cable television industry these days. We live in an era of cord cutters, and as investors we're taught to stay away from fading markets. The trend is your friend, or so they say.

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Thankfully for investors there are still some compelling players with stocks worth exploring, even at a time when folks are ditching ESPN and other cable channels as they shift to cheaper entertainment options. Let's take a look at the three top cable stocks to buy now.

Image source: Comcast's Universal Orlando.

Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA)

The country's largest cable provider may also be its most resilient. Comcast is gaining ground at a time when many of its smaller peers are going the wrong way. Comcast had22.549 million cable television accounts as of the end of March, up from 22.4 million customers a year earlier.

It shouldn't be a surprise to see its Xfinity internet service growing faster, as even cord cutters need a reliable connection to stream video content. Internet accounts just topped 25 million for Comcast, up 6% over the past year.Comcast is also doing a better job of milking more money out of its growing account base, as revenue for both its cable and internet platforms is growing faster than its user growth.

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Comcast isn't just a cable provider these days, diversifying successfully into content. The acquisition of NBCUniversal arms Comcast with movie studio and media network assets along with a thriving theme park business that now ranks as the world's third largest player. It also acquired DreamWorks Animation a year ago.

DISH Network (NASDAQ: DISH)

Satellite television is struggling, and as the country's second largest player DISH Network isn't necessarily doing well on that front. It had 13.528 million pay TV customers at the end of March, down from the 13.874 million accounts on its rolls a year earlier. Average revenue per user has actually declined over the past year, unlike Comcast where that metric is inching higher.

DISH Network makes the cut here because it's the one player that isn't afraid to disrupt its own industry. DISH was the first player to roll out an internet-tethered service in Sling TV. Before that DISH was the one leading the way to let subscribers view channels that they were already paying for across various devices.

DISH is also making some interesting moves in wireless. It's been loading up its arsenal with spectrum that it has three years to put into play or face stiff penalties. Whether DISH is able to build out the Internet of Things network that it's discussed in the past or finds a well-heeled partner to make it all come together, DISH is an attractive buyout candidate even if none of its divestitures pan out.

Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL)

The third top stock is a company that few consider a pay TV provider, but let's go over the many ways that the company formerly known as Google is a much bigger player in this space than you might initially think.

  • Alphabet wants a connected world, and many ventures from Google Fiber on the high-end to the balloon-propelled Project Loon aiming to canvas developing nations with free internet show that the company wants folks online.
  • Google Fiber itself offers a cable TV program with 220 channels. Google Fiber has rapidly expanded to nearly a dozen metropolitan markets.
  • Alphabet also owns YouTube which recently rolled out YouTube TV, a high-end streaming television platform offering a bundle of popular channels for just $35 a month.

Alphabet obviously doesn't rely on pay TV the way that Comcast and DISH do, but it's an important player that just happens to be the global top dog in digital advertising. Comcast, DISH Network, and Alphabet are the top cable stocks for investors to consider.

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Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares) and Alphabet (C shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.