What’s Altucher’s “Social Media Killer” stock?

by Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe | February 28, 2019 3:31 pm

Checking out the latest teaser for Altucher's Top 1% Advisory

Today it’s time for a look at another overheated James Altucher pitch, this time for Altucher’s Top 1% Advisory ($2,000, no refunds)

The big idea this time is that he’s teasing a “social media killer” and, of course, “one little company” that he thinks will be the big winner of this “killer” trend.

What is it? Here’s a little taste of the ad:

“… the demand for this ‘Social Media Killer’ is INSATIABLE…

“Millions of people are flocking into it…

“Investopedia wrote that there is ‘no question this is changing the landscape…’ and has created ‘an opportunity for investors to cash in.’

“And there is ONE company that has positioned itself exclusively to collect the lion’s share of all these profits.”

I’ll let the cat out of the bag a bit here — this “social media killer” is eSports and online gaming and game streaming in general, and the phenomenon that is the battle royale game Fortnite in particular. The trend is of people playing more video games live and socially online, and of people also watching other gamers play games either online or in big live arena tournaments and professional eSports video game leagues.

This is not a new idea, of course, it’s been teased by a few folks over the past year or two and I’ve been watching some of the big eSports and gaming companies and considering some purchases (haven’t bought anything yet), but it’s somewhat difficult to find a “clean” investment in this trend. The biggest obvious candidates, the major video game publishers who are driving a lot of the eSports leagues and publishing most of the games, are also suffering because they have all lost mindshare and market share to Fortnite in the past couple quarters, so their share prices have collapsed and scared everyone off… and you can’t really invest in Fortnite directly, since it’s owned by a private company (Epic Games), and the publicly traded companies who are part-owners of Epic, notably the Chinese tech giant Tencent, are so huge that Fortnite doesn’t really register on their income statement.

I’m guessing that a position in Activision Blizzard or Electronic Arts at prices near where they stand now will probably end up being profitable (I went into those in some detail when the Fool had a similar video gaming tease two weeks ago[1]), since the trend of increased video gaming will be with us for a lot longer than Fortnite is likely to be able to keep its perch atop the business, but the past few months make it a little scary… and Altucher clearly isn’t pitching these huge companies, so what is it that he’s got in mind?

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Here’s a little more from the ad:

“Forbes wrote that this opportunity is “something that’s continuing to grow, and at a rapid pace.”

“They know there is still tons of room to grow.

“And now with Amazon, Disney and ESPN getting behind it…

“You can expect to start seeing this underground opportunity on every webpage Amazon touches…

“You’ll see it across every network Disney owns, including the popular online-streaming service Hulu…

“And I predict it’s all going to kick off with a massive announcement from ESPN as soon as this coming Thursday.

“I suspect over 200 million people could watch it on TV…

“That’s when the mainstream bump will take effect…

“And one tiny company’s stock will absolutely soar.”

I don’t know whether ESPN will really make a new eSports announcement of some kind today… they haven’t yet, but they are certainly involved in eSports and making some big bets on the trend. That’s not brand new, they did a big deal with Activision Blizzard to broadcast the finals of the Overwatch league[2] last year, and it’s not rising to the level of major “real” sports just yet but it is clearly getting the attention of most of the big sports leagues and major media companies. The breakthrough game streamer Ninja even got the cover of ESPN Magazine last fall[3]. No one knows quite what the finances of esports will look like, or of how gaming will evolve, but it’s clearly a trend in society… and that always drives investor interest.

But that doesn’t tell us what the “tiny company” is … more clues?

“WARNING: As Soon as ESPN Makes Their Big Announcement, ALL Main Street Investors Will Be Wise to This Tiny Company…

“Once the cat is out of the bag… it cannot be put back in.

“Which is why it’s so important you get in before next Thursday.”

That’s almost certainly just some “false urgency” designed to get you to make a subscription decision quickly — after all, the enemy of any big-ticket no-refunds newsletter ad campaign is “hold on and let me think about this for a minute.”

We also get some more specific clues, especially about the connection between eSports and actual professional sports leagues:

“The NFL says it is ‘the only North American sports league to commit all its franchises to competitive gaming…’ and has ‘the largest individual tournament prize pool, $700,000, in Madden’s 30-year history.’

“To participate, real investors had to put BIG money into esports…

“Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots — one of the most successful sports franchises in the world — just paid $20 MILLION for an esports team!

“So did Stan Kroenke, owner of the Los Angeles Rams!

“With each NFL team putting up $20 million, you’re looking at almost a billion dollars invested into esports.

“And one tiny company has locked in an exclusive partnership with the creators of the Madden video game…

“So this little-known company is the ONLY company allowed in on the profits in this specific sector…”

The NBA is in a similar position with their NBA 2K game (NBA2K is published by Take Two Interactive[4] (TTWO), by the way… Madden NFL by Electronic Arts[5] (EA)). And apparently this “tiny company is also involved there:

“But the one tiny company I’ve been talking about was even smarter…

“They recently revealed a deal for exclusive rights to the profits in their sector, in the NBA’s new league!”

So what is it that this “tiny company” does? What’s that “sector” of the market that Altucher keeps referencing? More clues…

“And thanks to the patented technology developed by this one tiny company…

“Fans can interact and engage with their favorite pro gamers at a level never possible in any other sport ever before!

“This is a total breakthrough…

“One of my favorite things to invest into is a company with patents.

“Warren Buffett likes “moats” around his investments. And patents are the ultimate moat!

“This tiny company’s patented technology has helped build a new social media alternative that the masses are FLOCKING to….

“… this tiny company has over 175 issued and pending patents on their ideas…”

And apparently their patented product gives players some kind of advantage:

“This Tiny Company Has Unlocked the Secret Stash of Gaming Profits

“You see, this company makes a key piece of technology that is critical to succeeding in the world of competitive gaming.

“Currently, the largest video game prize pool in the world is for the massively popular game Fortnite.

“In case you haven’t heard of it…

“Over 200 million people play Fortnite, making the player community larger than the population of Russia and Japan!

“And the top players in the world will compete for a prize pool of $100 MILLION!

“With stakes that high, professional gamers will want every advantage possible.

“And this little-known company makes key technology that offers the sharpest advantage available in gaming.

“Using this company’s tech, players can react faster AND with greater precision than their opponents…”

And we get a hint about the leadership of the company:

“… this tiny company’s board is LOADED with talent from the largest tech companies in the world.

“Companies like Cisco, Sony, HP and Motorola.”

So… what’s this “tiny company?” This is our old friend Turtle Beach (HEAR), which made a little splash in the world of Gumshoe a few years ago when they bought the wildly overhyped HyperSound business from the over-promoted Parametric Sound[6]… though that was really just a distraction, the company itself is essentially the same today as it has been for a decade, a maker of high-end gaming headsets and similar accessories for video gaming.

To some degree they are catching lightning in a bottle with the Fortnite craze — the “battle royale” format puts a lot of emphasis on communication and speed, and playing with a headset does make a big difference (and make it more fun, since part of the appeal is social), and Fortnite is the first really big mass-market game that demands a headset. They’ve always been popular with hardcore gamers and serious players of more complex games, but Fortnite broadened the market for the headsets, which are not terribly different from any other microphone-equipped headset you might have used and can cost anywhere from $20 to $250.

Turtle Beach does claim that their headsets have patented features and differ from the competition with some video game-specific features (like “superhuman hearing[7]“), and they do have the largest market share of all the aftermarket headphone makers (30-40% market share and growing, and five of the top ten top-selling third party headsets), so it might be that they are building a sustainable advantage — though I have no idea what the upgrade cycle might be for these headsets, or whether they’ll be able to keep growing beyond last year’s surprise Fortnite surge.

So yes, Turtle Beach is the most dominant third party headset provider for gaming… though to imply that this means they’ll get the lion’s share of the profits for this surge in gaming and eSports is just silly. It’s an accessory, and one that is primarily in demand among high-end gamers and the players of “battle royale” games like Fortnite, they’ve been around for years and haven’t seen huge revenue surges from the trend of “more video gaming” in general, it’s really just Fortnite that has driven mass-market headset use.

And, of course, my assumption is that there will be price competition, and the market is just not that big. The total gaming market, including eSports, is arguably somewhere in the $100-150 billion neighborhood, but Turtle Beach, even with a phenomenal growth year thanks to Fortnite’s boost in demand for headsets in 2018, only has annual revenue of about $250 million (and 2018 was the first year of meaningful revenue growth for them since 2014, they didn’t grow revenues from 2015-2017 despite the growth of the video gaming market in those years).

There aren’t many analysts who follow HEAR, but they are a little skeptical about this past year’s Fortnite “lightning in a bottle” event for headsets becoming recurring — Turtle Beach reports in the next couple weeks, so this could change quickly, but the current expectation is that HEAR will finish 2018 with $286 million in revenue and $2.92 per share in earnings… and that 2019 will “reset” the business after that 2018 surge and bring $243 million and $1.69 in earnings. They already preannounced 2018 numbers a few weeks ago[8], so no big surprises are expected there, but what they say about 2019 will likely shape the stock’s performance in the next month.

So you can probably justify buying the stock here, the huge 2018 did indeed give them a much-needed financial boost and the ability to pay down some expensive debt, so even if that was a one-time surge the shares are arguably reasonably valued at less than 10X next year’s earnings… as long as they don’t provide a more pessimistic forecast for 2019. I would assume that the size of the market is somewhat limited, and, more importantly, that the competition will keep gross margins down, but margins have been solid over the past year in recovering back up to the 35-40% neighborhood, so they have room to decline a bit and still make a good profit (gross margins bottomed out around 20% in 2016).

And yes, Turtle Beach does have lots of marketing deals and “exclusive” arrangements to be the official headset of various eSports leagues and games, and sponsors a bunch of gamers who are popular on Alphabet’s YouTube or Amazon’s Twitch or other widely-viewed platforms, which should be good for the brand… but I don’t have a huge amount of confidence that Turtle Beach branding will let them hold off other accessory makers or experience another surprise demand windfall like they got from Fortnite last year. The good thing, I guess, is that the current valuation doesn’t necessarily assume another windfall — though it does assume that the bottom won’t fall out of the headset market and send revenues back down to 2017 levels.

That’s about all I can tell you about Turtle Beach. They don’t have any strong pure-play competitors, but there are a lot of accessory makers who make competing headsets of similar quality (Logitech, Razer, Steelseries, Kingston, etc), so much will rely on both the size of the market growing and on the power of branding within the market to provide differentiation and protect gross margins among what are fundamentally, at least to my inexpert eye (and ear), very similar products based on similar technologies.

That’s not enough to get me excited, but the stock is priced as if it will plateau at last year’s sales level or a little below, so expectations are muted and the valuation is not crazy. I’d probably have to be a gamer to have any real confidence in their product superiority or brand power, and my Fortnite-playing kids do just fine with cheap headphones, so I may be a little too skeptical of this one… but there is, at least, the underlying trend of popularity in Fortnite and other “battle royale” games that really do require headsets for improved play, and the continuing mass-media presence of competitive video gaming that could bolster brands and keep demand relatively elevated. I won’t try to talk you out of buying Turtle Beach if you believe in the power of their brand, but I will caution you to expect returns that are dramatically lower than James Altucher’s dreamed-of “199,103% explosion.”

And will some announcement come from ESPN today? I have no idea… nor do I really know what it could be, but my best guess would be Disney making some sort of deal to televise a Fortnite tournament, perhaps? Fortnite’ latest “season” did just begin this week, though that doesn’t really mean anything in the big picture (this is Season 8 already, and Fortnite has been out for less than two years), but that’s only a guess… I have no idea whether any new ESPN gaming coverage is about to be announced, and wouldn’t expect any particular televised event to have a meaningful impact on headset demand. The biggest near-term impact on the stock will likely be from HEAR’s earnings announcement, specifically from whatever they say about 2019 (we already know the fourth quarter numbers[9]) — they haven’t specified a date, I don’t think, but did preannounce the basic fourth quarter numbers and say they’ll have the full release in “mid-March” (it was March 6 last year).

So that’s all I’ve got for you today, friends — yes, Turtle Beach has been riding the Fortnite wave as well as just about anyone, but I know now whether that wave crashes on the beach (ha!) or keeps rolling. It’s your money, so you can make your call on that… let us know what you think with a comment below.

Disclosure: I own shares of Disney, Alphabet, and Amazon, mentioned above. I am not invested in any of the other stocks mentioned, and will not trade in any covered stock for at least three days, per Stock Gumshoe’s trading rules.

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  1. Fool had a similar video gaming tease two weeks ago: https://www.stockgumshoe.com/reviews/stock-advisor-canada/fools-bezos-is-dumping-970-million-into-a-bizarre-2nd-coming-of-netflix/
  2. big deal with Activision Blizzard to broadcast the finals of the Overwatch league: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/espn-says-esports-not-fad-124537864.html
  3. cover of ESPN Magazine last fall: https://variety.com/2018/gaming/news/ninja-espn-magazine-cover-1202947409/
  4. NBA2K is published by Take Two Interactive: https://2kleague.nba.com/
  5. Madden NFL by Electronic Arts: https://www.easports.com/madden-nfl/compete/events/madden-bowl
  6. over-promoted Parametric Sound: https://www.stockgumshoe.com/reviews/microcap-tech-trader/microcap-tech-traders-sound-laser/
  7. superhuman hearing: https://www.turtlebeach.com/pages/superhuman-hearing
  8. preannounced 2018 numbers a few weeks ago: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/turtle-beach-reports-selected-preliminary-2018-results-300791350.html
  9. we already know the fourth quarter numbers: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/turtle-beach-reports-selected-preliminary-2018-results-300791350.html
  10. You and I can each earn a free share of stock right now if you open an account!: https://join.robinhood.com/travisj369

Source URL: https://www.stockgumshoe.com/reviews/altuchers-top-1-advisory/whats-altuchers-social-media-killer-stock/

  1. Avatar
    Mike Forrest
    Feb 28 2019, 04:07:26 pm

    Great Analyis Travis!! Altucher has a pretty strong reputation for being extremely smart though so I think it’s worth putting a small bet down on this company. Lets see what happens in March

      • Avatar
        Mar 1 2019, 08:56:46 am

        I agree! I subscribed to one of his newsletters several years ago. What a mistake! His recommendations were almost universally crap. He was touting Hertz two weeks before the stock fell off a cliff! This guy is full of that well-known substance; stay clear of anything Altucher pitches.

        • Avatar
          R K LAKHOTIA
          Mar 2 2019, 03:36:47 am

          Witlingweary. Most of them are con men. It is the transfer of money from impatient reader’s wallet to their wallet. I never fall for tricks and avoid high power sales pitch and high subscription price. Generally stocks picking skills can be cultivated from various financial websites and papers.

    • Avatar
      Mar 1 2019, 05:25:39 am

      Altucher is a shill. He was all over the internet on Bitcoin. Though he may be smart, be very careful buying on his touts

    • Avatar
      Feb 28 2019, 09:44:05 pm

      Nope. French for Google is lunette or glasses in English. The round stuff you sit on when you go to the throne is also called lunette in French. I think it’s the best translation for Google.

  2. Avatar
    Feb 28 2019, 04:47:47 pm

    Thank you Travis for all the research you put into this article. I follow James Altucher but can’t bring myself to pay for his information. The cheap car salesman pitch is nauseating. (Hurry Hurry order now or you’ll miss out) Desperate people fall for that crap. If he is as wealthy as he says he is why won’t he start a hedge fund and let his follow invest in it. He is the money making expert right?

    • 60 |
      Feb 28 2019, 08:51:00 pm

      I also appreciate James Altucher’s writing. He is out-of-the box — if you say whacko, it’s probably whacko — but still interesting. I am subscribed to his entry level service, which is practically for free if you have it lifetime. And his portfolio is not doing badly. But with most of all those investment letters, the entry level service actually performs better than the high-ticket services. I suspect it’s the same with Altucher’s services, so I’d rather not recommend to subscribe to his “Top 1% advisory”. If you like the writing, you get more than enough at the entry level.

    • Avatar
      Feb 28 2019, 09:48:07 pm

      As narroi says, his entry level letter is good and I think enough for the hoi polloi. He has had very good calls in it and he sees far away. Otherwise he’s pitching a lot of different crap. Stick to his entry level letter, you’ll get good tips and some bad ones of course.

  3. Avatar
    Scott N
    Feb 28 2019, 05:29:03 pm

    James Altucher is an absolute wack job. When he stuck his finger in the outlet it fried his brain and his hair. Pay him 2 grand (no refund) and maybe he can get his hair fixed.

    • 101
      Feb 28 2019, 05:59:40 pm

      Some of the promos Altucher has been involved with are borderline insanity. I don’t think I would be inclined to waste a nickel on his nonsense. As for the . hairdo…yeccch!

  4. Avatar
    Feb 28 2019, 05:53:18 pm

    I was racking my brain on this one too, but didn’t want to pony up the money for it. Buying headphones that kill social media seems to be quite a stretch. I thought it was Bragg Gaming Group (BKDCF) which seemed to fit the parameters more neatly. [Full disclosure I recently bought this stock when I thought I solved the riddle]

    • 12841 |
      Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe
      Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe
      Feb 28 2019, 07:40:01 pm

      Good luck to you… Bragg is mostly gambling focused, isn’t it? Have never looked at their financials, but they’ve been active in acquiring other microcap companies in the space.

      • Avatar
        Mar 1 2019, 02:14:12 pm

        2017: Breaking Data (Bragg) Acquires GIVEMESPORT
        GIVEMESPORT is a leading next generation sports media company with the largest single publisher Facebook page in the world, with over 26 million fans. The next largest single sports publisher Facebook page is ESPN with 15.2 fans. GIVEMESPORT’s content generates over 3.6 billion impressions, reaching over 138 million unique users per month on Facebook alone.

        In addition they have 175 patents which was listed as one of his criteria.

    • Avatar
      Mar 1 2019, 09:37:17 am

      I looked for Bragg Gaming and Patents, but found nothing. How does it better fit the parameters (aside from a bigger % upside from $0.52)?

  5. Avatar
    Feb 28 2019, 06:54:13 pm

    The comments are amusing. I’m googling a photo of this fellow. Travis, your investigations are so compelling and presented with humor and flair. But, most importantly, you have helped me make a few great buys. Keep up the good work. You’re awesome.

  6. Avatar
    vivian lewis
    Feb 28 2019, 07:30:56 pm

    poor Robert Kraft is otherwise engaged as he was arrested for visiting a brothel in Florida. do you want to follow his investment advice? the Patriots won the game but he celebrated the wrong way.

    • Avatar
      Mar 1 2019, 08:41:33 am

      Poor Patriots – First it was Video-gate, then deflate-gate, now TAIL-gate. Sorry for the humor, just thought this was very funny when I heard it.

  7. Avatar
    Mar 1 2019, 12:01:11 am

    It seems safer to buy some Activision stock during its current dip, than to bet on headsets. What happens if Apple comes out with them? How long will people be going crazy for Fortnite? Who knows who’ll make money with the next craze?

  8. Avatar
    Mar 1 2019, 01:16:51 am

    HEAR appears to have almost 54% short interest at the moment. Does that make a difference to anyone? Would it make you more likely to take a shot at it or less? Or more likely to short?

  9. Avatar
    Mar 1 2019, 12:20:22 pm


  10. Avatar
    Mar 1 2019, 12:45:05 pm

    Thank you for your work figuring this out, Travis! I actually bought my cousin’s 11 year old son a pair of Turtle Beach headphones for Christmas at what I thought was an astronomical price. This kid had wanted the next model above them in price(!), but I wasn’t going that far.

    • Avatar
      Mar 1 2019, 08:45:10 pm

      All the kids want ’em, and they are THE standard for gamers. They take abuse, and last, and a charge lasts a long time too. I’ve been making bank off the options volatility on this one for almost 2 years now, no weeklies but always great swings and high premium to sell. Love it!

  11. 55 |
    Mar 2 2019, 05:53:10 pm

    I once downloaded a free PDF Altucher “book” only to find he’d scanned a poorly set type written (on a manual type writer!) pages basically arguing that most of life and society are crap and you’ve got to “choose yourself”. So I did and thus did not pay for his newsletter.
    His carpet bombing ad campaign for his Cryptocurrency newsletter guaranteed I’ll never spend a dime on anything he is associated with.

    It did bring a smile to be face to see Turtle Beach still exists: back in the late 90’s I sold their Sound cards!

    • Avatar
      Mar 5 2019, 01:30:04 pm

      I thought sound cards too (didn’t sell them but bought a few) when I saw “Turtle Beach” but I am vaguely familiar they make headsets. Thanks for the analysis, Travis!

  12. Avatar
    Mar 3 2019, 03:48:33 pm

    James Altucher is a wacko. I bought one of his so called investment books and all he talked about was his weird relationships with women. I think he has mental issues.

  13. Avatar
    Mar 5 2019, 02:14:09 pm

    I just checked out the number of shares bought and or sold for HEAR. Looks like over 3 M have been sold by a beneficial owner since Jan 2019. Could this be a really bad sign for investors?

    • Avatar
      Mar 5 2019, 03:04:51 pm

      I’ll concede with Travis that it is HEAR. It seemed like a weak connection, but Altucher is pitching the e-sports trend more than anything else. There has been some selling, but if you look at the heavy options volume (calls) it definitely tracks with his top pick. However, the stock looks to have a classic head and shoulders pattern to go lower, but we’ll see.

      DIS annual shareholder call is this Thurs so maybe we’ll get some greater insight on the connections [James kept pushing Thurs and ESPN]

  14. Avatar
    Mar 5 2019, 04:21:17 pm

    I read and enjoyed Altucher’s book Choose Yourself some 5-6 years ago but have been smelling a conman ever since. Why? Because he merely lends his name to the add copy writer guys for that smarmy Agora publishing whose greatest talents, IMHO, are polishing turds and getting paid first.

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