3 Stocks Riding High With 'Game of Thrones'

TheStreet.com

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Even if you know nothing about the hit HBO series "Game of Thrones," the feverish cybertalk leading up to Sunday's premiere of Season 3 gives you an indication of the level of interest in the medieval-fantasy TV series.

Based on the popular book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin (and made more popular by the Emmy-winning show), "Game of Thrones'" fanatical fans have risen to epic proportions for a TV series. (Another hit is AMC Network's "The Walking Dead.") There is every indication that it will keep attracting viewers, so long as show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss continue to produce gripping episodes that don't veer too far from the books, but at the same time visually tell the medieval-fantasy tale in short segments for the average viewer.

>>>Who Will Win in The Game of Thrones?

According to an article last week on WinterisComing.net (a site named after the words representing House Stark, one of the main noble houses in the story), an independent Web site publishing news and information related to the series, the combination of high weekly viewer numbers (11.6 million was the most recent), record sales of season 2 DVD sets and some of the highest-viewed trailers on YouTube in HBO history (not to mention it was the most pirated show in 2012), "you can see why we are optimistic about the ratings once the show returns at the end of the month."

So can the success, so far, of the series transfer into equity wins?

>>>See Stockpickr's Game of Thrones portfolio

In the series -- and perhaps in stock plays -- even an underdog can rise above his station. But like the various warring families in "Game of Thrones," the reality is that no one, not even our beloved characters, are safe in Westeros, so not every stock will have positive movements.

As Queen Cersei says: "When you play the 'Game of Thrones,' you either win or you die. There is no middle ground."

TheStreet highlighted three stocks loyal to the crown on the following pages.

1. Time Warner

Time Warner is the parent company of shining star Home Box Office, or HBO, the premium-cable channel where "Game of Thrones" airs on Sunday nights and on demand offerings.

"Game of Thrones" follows a long line of successful and innovative original television series originally aired on the pay subscription service, including "Sex in the City," "Wired," "Six Feet Under," "Entourage," "The Sopranos" and "Boardwalk Empire." The show has won many Emmy awards.

The media conglomerate, which also moves across media verticals, including movies, network television and publishing, owns Warner Bros., Time Inc. and Turner Broadcasting. (Time Warner Cable split from parent company Time Warner in 2009.)

But of course, the future of the company is how it translates to the digital age. The company announced plans earlier this month to spin off its Time Inc. division.

Specifically within HBO, the network is looking to hook up with technology hubs to help move the network into the mobile age. Earlier this month, HBO hosted "Game of Thrones" season-premiere parties in Silicon Valley and Seattle, according to the Los Angeles Times .

The network is also promoting its digital-streaming service, HBO Go. But so far, the service is only available to subscribers of the HBO channel. The streaming service offers a way for viewers to watch their favorite HBO shows via smartphone or tablet, and has been enticing viewers to use the service by putting shows on HBO Go before cable, the LA Times article says.

Time Warner's stock hit a new 52-week high on Thursday, topping out at $58.02 during intraday trading and closing up 1.7%. The shares have risen 20% this year.

2. Amazon

Amazon is a tale of two cities. There are those who are in love with the company (the majority of its users), and those who hate the stock.

The Seattle-based online retailer has come under attack from Wall Street bears, citing concerns over operating margins, but Amazon may have put some of those concerns to rest in its most recent quarter. Amazon's fourth-quarter operating margin was 1.9%, compared to 1.5% in the prior year's quarter.

Strong revenue growth and the continued growth in market and mind share have allowed Amazon to trade at more than 70 times 2013 earnings estimates, far higher than its brick-and-mortar retail rivals such as Wal-Mart and Target . Amazon offers a variety of products that its competitors can't match, like free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime, and a burgeoning ecosystem with its Kindle Fire tablet and e-readers.

Amazon Prime is a real hook for consumers, who spend $79 a year to get goods faster than traditional shipping. Amazon Prime also offers content, such as the first two seasons of "Game of Thrones," at no extra charge, making the service more valuable.

The stock is up 6.2% this year. Shares closed on Thursday up 1.2% to $266.49.

3. Facebook

HBO is using all things social media -- Twitter, Google's YouTube and, of course, Facebook to get the word out in the digital realm that Winter Is Coming ... this Sunday. The official HBO "Game of Thrones" Facebook page has more than 5 million "likes." HBO's latest post, as of Thursday afternoon, promoting its traveling exhibit of the show got a whopping 20,000 likes.

It's examples like "Game of Thrones" that really allow Facebook to live up to its true potential of being a platform for people with similar interests to share and engage with one another.

The "Game of Thrones" case study also plays into Facebook's January announcement regarding Graph Search, in which users will be able to combine phrases to search people, places, photos and other content that's been shared on the social network.

Facebook shares have been on a rocky road and are down 4% in 2013. Shares closed at $25.58 on Thursday, down 2% for the day.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York. Chris Ciaccia contributed to this article.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.

>To submit a news tip, email: tips@thestreet.com.

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