Zynga Partners Synacor

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Social game developer Zynga Inc. (ZNGA) recently signed a partnership deal with Synacor Inc. (SYNC), a cloud-based television services provider. Synacor’s cloud-based platform enables cable, satellite and telecom companies to deliver entertainment services and apps to their subscribers across multiple devices. The partnership will enable subscribers to directly access Zynga’s home page, games and in-game currency beginning 2013.

Social games, which are mostly free-to-play, primarily earn revenue from the sale of in-game currency that is used by players to purchase virtual items, power-ups and energy while playing. Zynga currency (also called credit) is used in most of its games namely Zynga Poker, Words With Friends, FarmVille2, ChefVille, CityVille, Bubble Safari and Ruby Blast.

Although the financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, such as revenue sharing of the in-game transactions between the two companies, we believe that the increasing usage of in-game currency will boost Zynga’s top-line growth going forward.

The partnership comes at an opportune time for Zynga. The company recently lost its exclusivity to Facebook (FB), which is a serious setback, considering the fact that the social networking platform has been its primary source of revenue over the last few years (currently 85.0% of Zynga”s traffic and 92.0% of its revenue). The Synacor deal will not only reduce Zynga’s dependence on the Facebook platform but will also expand its customer base going forward.

Synacor has a strong clientele of approximately 45 cable, satellite and telecom companies that include names such as Verizon and Charter. Its service reaches approximately 24 million households who have access to high-speed Internet. We believe that the partnership will allow Zynga to reach a sizable audience over the long term.

Lately, Zynga has been criticized for the lack of new and diversified gaming content, which is failing to attract new users. We believe that increasing penetration will attract new game developers, which will improve gaming content over the long term. We believe that the deal will also promote Zynga currency as a suitable alternative to Facebook Credit for many game developers, thereby boosting in-game transactional revenue going forward.

Over the last 12 months, Zynga has been entering into partnership deals in order to gain momentum in the social, free-to-play and casual gaming market. In October 2012, Zynga entered into a partnership deal with Gibraltar-based online gambling company bwin.party to offer real-money poker and casino-style games in the U.K. 

In May, Zynga teamed up with American Express and created a new platform called Serve. In June 2012, the company announced a new network (Zynga with Friends) and also started providing programming tools to third party developers to publish online mobile games. Zynga also announced partnerships with Majesco Entertainment (COOL) and Atari. 

However, we note that growth from these partnerships will take some time to materialize. In between, its games continue to lose popularity and money amid stiff competition from established players such as Electronic Arts (EA) and Activision Blizzard (ATVI). Further, the revised terms with Facebook (despite all Zynga initiatives to reduce exposure) will remain an overhang on the stock in the near term.

We remain Neutral on Zynga over the long term (6-12 months). Currently, Zynga has a Zacks #3 Rank, which implies a Hold rating in the short-term (1-3 months).

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