Fool’s “Ticking Time Bomb for Cable TV” pitch

by Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe | March 12, 2018 4:22 pm

Here’s the teaser pitch that caught the attention of some Gumshoe readers this morning:

“Not to alarm you but you’re about to miss an important and rare event.

“Renowned investor Tom Gardner has identified a stock that he thinks resembles Facebook before its IPO.

“It’s a little internet company that’s growing at a torrid pace – profit grew 86% in the last quarter alone!”

So what’s the story? Well, it’s a pitch for the Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter, which is helmed by the founding Fool brothers Tom and David Gardner. And over the years they’ve made a habit of particularly trumpeting the stocks that both brothers like (Tom tends to be the “value” guy, David the “growth” buy, so they refer to these stocks that both of them like as “total conviction” investments).

So that’s what’s got folks interested today:

“Tom’s brother David – a legendary investor who picked Amazon at $3.19 – has gone on record also recommending investors buy this same exact stock….

“across the 21 stocks Tom and David have agreed on…

“The average return for each stock is an astounding 473%!”

I’m sure that number is accurate, but it’s also over a long period of time and, more importantly, it is dramatically skewed by a couple hugely dramatic stock gains — particularly the 8,000%+ gain in Netflix (NFLX) since both brothers jumped on it more than a decade ago.

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But still, we want to know what the stock is — what’s the story?

Here are our clues:

“This tiny internet company is about 1/279th the size of Facebook.

“Yet, we think it has a jaw-dropping market opportunity that could be bigger than 2016 total sales of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google – combined!

“This small cap stock has already banked $429 million for its young CEO.

“But he’s betting all of it – $429,607,700 to be exact – on something he’s calling a ‘ticking time bomb.’

“You see, Tom thinks this company’s product holds the key to even higher earnings as more and more people ditch cable for streaming TV.”

So part of their thesis is that there’s more to come from the “cord cutting” surge as people cancel their cable TV and rely on online streaming… and that this company is somehow making money from that:

“… while the ‘cord cutting’ trade has pushed millions of investors into Amazon, Netflix, and Disney… all of which are near all-time highs.

“This hidden company has been raking in cash from deals with industry titans… with almost no fanfare from Wall Street”

And, for one more clue…

“The Motley Fool has recommended this stock four times already in the past year, and each time it’s gone on to crush the market.”

So is this, perhaps, one that we’ve already covered?

Yep, I’m afraid so — this ad is pretty similar to one that the Motley Fool was running around Christmastime, but going by the updated numbers in the ad I can confirm the Thinkolator’s answer, with more certainty… as they were doing back in January[1], the Motley Fool is teasing The Trade Desk (TTD) as a Gardner brothers “total conviction” pick.

Tom Gardner interviewed The Trade Desk CEO Jeff Green late last year, so you can check out that interview here[2] if you want more background (or more confirmation of the Fools’ fondness for the stock), and in that interview Green summed up what The Trade Desk’s mission and business is:

“… our purpose is to actually fund media. And the way that you fund media is by making advertising better, and creating a better monetization engine for all of media. And for us, that specifically means that we service the advertisers in the agency. So we’re a buy-side platform, as they call it, which is a set of tools that helps agencies and advertisers buy all-digital media, so whether that’s Spotify or Hulu, or The New York Times, or Motley Fool, to essentially buy the ads on those sites using data and to make certain that you get the right ads in front of the right customers. So that’s what we’re after, and that’s what we do.”

This happens to be a stock I own as well, I bought some shares last fall[3] after researching it when I looked into an earlier Motley Fool ad, and added to my position more meaningfully [4]last month before earnings. It so happened that the latest earnings report was fantastic, which was probably a relief to shareholders after the November collapse in the share price, so the stock enjoyed a nice 20% pop or so last month and looks a bit more difficult to buy now.

But the future is looking a little rosier, too… my assessment back in February was that I could justify buying a small position in TTD up to about 30X forward earnings, given the small size of the company (market cap around $2.5 billion now), the large size of the market (global digital ad spending is well over $200 billion/year, and “programmatic” ad spending is growing at ~25% annually), and the expected earnings growth (analysts forecast an average of 23%/year).

At the time, that meant a maximum buy price of about $50 for me… but if you use the same assessment now, with the higher estimates for 2019 earnings, that would mean the stock is “buyable” up to about $65, which is close to the all-time high and about 10% above the current share price. There’s certainly plenty of risk, all you have to do is look at the stock chart to see that the shares do not automatically surge higher at all times and that the company hasn’t delighted one and all with a “beat and raise” every quarter during its young life (they went public late in 2016).


But you can also see, if you layer the revenue on top (orange line), that the business is growing nicely.


On the other hand, for those looking for a reason to be a bit more skeptical, the fundraising over the past year and a half, including the IPO, means the revenue PER SHARE is not really growing yet (red line)… that ought to improve, since they generate enough cash to sustain the business at this point, so there’s no clear reason why they’d need to sell a lot more shares in the future, but that doesn’t mean they won’t.


Which is why, of course, you have to make your own decision… is the underlying growth enough for this richly-valued small cap? Can they continue to grow as the market for programmatic advertising grows? Can their access to streaming video advertising give them any edge over behemoths like Alphabet? (Or even just a corner where competition is not as fierce yet?) I don’t know the answers with any certainty, which is why it’s a fairly small position — but I like what they’re doing so far, and I like their ambition.

The “ticking time bomb” quote, by the way, is also from that interview Green did with the Fool — here’s a little excerpt to give you the context of that:

“… as on-demand continues to grow, particularly since roughly 70% of Americans still pay for cable and roughly 70% of Americans pay for Netflix, it’s essentially them double-paying. In the sense that it’s costing more. And the content is costing more.

“And so the TV ecosystem today, we think of as a little bit of a ticking time bomb. Which is, especially in traditional TV where the users are going away, the number of people watching is declining, but the cost of providing the service has been going up. And the price of the ads has been going up, even though fewer people are watching. And so that’s making it so that it’s less effective on a per-dollar basis than it’s been, and yet the cost of content is going up. And so that’s what we think is creating the ticking time bomb.

“And the only way for that to resolve itself is with programmatic advertising. So we’re super excited about the fact that dollars are moving into programmatic advertising, and the way that that’s working is in the new apps that you’re getting on your Roku or your Apple TV or your Samsung TV, the ones after Amazon and Netflix, like a Hulu or a Sony Crackle or a TBS, all of those have some amount of ads, or at least an ad option. And because we can target them in a way that television ads never could, as well as the fact that there’s a degree of scarcity right now, because there isn’t that much inventory, it’s making those ads go for a premium, which is actually making it so that more content owners are trying to make their content available in apps like that.”

In case you’re curious, the only clue that really doesn’t make sense, on the surface, is the $429 million “CEO bet” number… Jeff Green only holds about $6.8 million worth of the Class A shares.

But wait, there are Class B shares, too… how many of those does he hold? Those are the super-voting shares that they created, copying titans like Google and Facebook, which basically ensure that TTD’s management team and insiders have full voting control forever, and my quick check of the filings[8] indicates that Jeff Green holds something in the neighborhood of 6.5 million Class B shares, which, when added to his Class A shares, would get you well over $400 million in value, though not quite precisely $429 million with the shares here at $60.

Green also holds stock options and is probably granted stock and options with some regularity as part of his compensation, though he has pretty consistently sold off his Class A shares, so his shareholding does fluctuate… and, of course, the price per share fluctuates quite a lot. (The Class B shares are essentially the same as Class A when it comes to ownership, it’s just that they come with 10X as many votes… so Green individually has something like 30% voting control, and other insiders also own Class B shares.)

And yes, I suppose to some degree he’s “betting it all” on The Trade Desk’s future, but, of course, he didn’t buy those shares at today’s price, he has them because he founded the company… and he’s not a “never sell” CEO — just from a quick scan of the insider transactions, it looks like he’s sold well over $70 million of his shares over just the past year (most of that was in his initial big sale after the post-IPO lockup period, but he has continued to sell smaller chunks continually since then)… so don’t weep for him or overstate his financial commitment — I’m sure he’s giving the company his all, but he’s still got that $70 million to keep him in chicken and waffles if this “bet it all” company fails.

So there you have it… more confirmation that the Fools are “total conviction” on The Trade Desk. Does that mean it will definitely go up several hundred percent like Facebook? Or even more, since it’s a lot smaller? Uh… no.

I own shares, I think it’s an attractive possibility, and I like the growth and the strategy and, because I’m funny like that and don’t want it to be all about the unseeable future, I like the fact that they are currently profitable… but I don’t think it’s a sure thing — not in an industry that’s changing as fast as digital advertising, and not for a company that is relatively small and subject to pressures from both major advertisers and traditional advertising agencies, and from the major “walled garden” publishers like Facebook and Google who control such a large part of the advertising inventory. I hope it works out well, and I think they’ve got a good chance, but I’m keeping my position small for now.

Your mileage may vary, of course — and it’s your money, so what matters is what you think — are you convinced that The Trade Desk will grow to dominate the automated ad buying process for online streaming, or otherwise expand its market in programmatic ad buying? Think the Foolish brothers will be right with their “Total Conviction,” or do you remain unconvinced? Let us know with a comment below.

P.S. We’re always collecting investor opinions about the newsletters they’ve subscribed to — so if you’ve ever taken Motley Fool Stock Advisor for a whirl, please do click here[9] to share your thoughts on that service with your fellow investors. Thank you!

  1. as they were doing back in January:
  2. check out that interview here:
  3. bought some shares last fall:
  4. added to my position more meaningfully :
  5. [Image]:
  6. [Image]:
  7. [Image]:
  8. quick check of the filings:
  9. Motley Fool Stock Advisor for a whirl, please do click here:

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  1. Avatar
    Mar 12 2018, 05:02:47 pm

    Wow I absolutely love stockgumshoe and think you are brilliant Travis but this Tom G is an interesting chap and the mere mention of his name made me post for the first time. I don’t want to get sued so will have to go and check my old research and get back to you but I would say do not trust a single word he says, he has a VERY interesting history to say the least.

    • 21
      Mar 13 2018, 04:55:09 pm

      What is the point of this sort of vague, drive-by ad-hominem attack? Something tells me you will never “get back” to us with your “old research”.

    • Avatar
      Aug 27 2018, 07:22:34 am

      Just wanted to say thanks, because I had so bought into the Fool myth that I hadn’t looked into things as well as I might’ve. I tended to think of them as a dynamic duo, but, being more impatient rather than less, as I age, as soon as my APPN FINALLY pulled back up to my buy price, I sold it. I sort of thought a depressed FB a better bet, especially with people bailing out over 7% less GROWTH ( still worried about the personal data problems, of course, especially with personally experiencing hypnotism as a crime, bringing a whole new dimension to identity theft). The last bit has really gotten me to question people who’s intention is to quiet other people from respectfully sharing the TRUTH about anything, which is my way of saying thanks for reminding me to never assume anything, and don’t let the guy in the hat discourage you.

  2. Avatar
    Mar 12 2018, 08:02:32 pm

    I did see an earlier Fool recommendation on TDD and when the stock had its big drop in November, I picked up 100 shares at 51. Had been disappointing until this last month. Hoping it’s now on its way back up, but still a little way from where it was before the drop.

    • 29 |
      Mar 12 2018, 10:35:18 pm

      I bought it at 47 and sold it at 58..BUT when I look at the graph. from October to I see a Cup and Handle formation ? I am not an expert in technicals…this is why I am asking anyone who undestands the technicals to pitch in here.. How can in find out the if institutions won TTD? and How can I see that the volume died out ..before the spike on Feb 22? What do you think. Is TTD going to fly from here?


  3. Avatar
    Mar 13 2018, 12:03:16 am

    DITCHING CABLE!!! If I do that my internet access cost INCREASES TO DOUBLE OR MORE than when I have Triple Play of telephone, internet and cable!!!
    I have a q about streaming. Don’t you need the fastest possible internet connection to get uninterrupted streaming of a movie or other long program?

    • Avatar
      Mar 15 2018, 05:01:38 pm

      Our internet cable speed is 0.8mbs in our little town in the mountains, which is 30X slower than the nearby town but Netflix Hulu, and Amazon work fairly well.

    • Avatar
      Oct 26 2018, 11:42:52 am

      I “cut cable” in 2014. I put cut cable in “” because I didn’t get rid if it entirely. I kept my Internet access and just dropped the TV/phone. I did this when the bill for my bundled package rose from $168/month to over $200/month. When that happened I realized that I was paying top dollar for things I didn’t need, i.e. a land line (we all have a cell phones), and a bunch of cable tv channels that my family never watched (5 shopping channels!! Really??).

      Cutting out the TV/phone package lowered my bill to $89/month and allowed me to upgrade to their highest Internet-only option. I have since moved to the $100/month 300 mb – 2 gig data plan which is more than sufficient to stream multiple devices at once with zero buffering.

      Adding a couple of $20 antennas to my various TVs allows me to access all major networks which all broadcast in digital (it’s as clear, and often clearer, than the HD cable channels) . My main room accesses over 24 local/regional channels including all major networks, PBS, CW, and Univision.

      The money I saved by cutting the bundled package allowed me to purchase monthly subscriptions to Netflix and HBO Now and more than pays for my annual Prime membership. While I may be spending close $140/month now I am actually spending that money on content I really want and things I really use AND I’m getting significantly higher connection speeds.

      One downside is the lack of viable options to watch certain sports. Although I do get my NFL games through the local stations, few local stations broadcast NBA, NHL or MLB games. If you are a big fan of one or more of those, you could buy their individual season packages. For me it works since NFL is still primarily shown by the major networks – NBC, CBS, FOX. On occasions when my team plasy on ESPN (like this week) I just head to a local bar (so maybe that isn’t a downside LOL).

      I guess it’s all what works for you.

      • Avatar
        richard melini
        Nov 6 2018, 11:13:33 am

        that’s the way it should be. You did well. I was paying $200/month………that’s $24,000 in 10 years. No &*^%$ way. Just the internet and I get what I need.

  4. Avatar
    Mar 13 2018, 12:06:40 am

    As to the “cost of content”, I think there is a need for “more data” on that. Succinctly, more is being spent on content, but I’m not sure we could state that the “cost” (apples to apples) is skyrocketing. Fact is, there is so much more content being created… and so much more tech to do it “better”, that one might argue that the “cost”, in some ways, has even decreased.

    • Avatar
      Mar 14 2018, 06:19:01 pm

      Appian does not pay a dividend. I picked some up last month at about $27. its been up in the $30’s but settles back to about $28 for now. Given what it is I would think it could be a very good stock going forward a year or so.

  5. Avatar
    Lex Loeb
    Aug 29 2018, 07:53:20 pm

    I got rid of dish, direct tv and broadcast tv when I got a 30 dollar Walmart roku stick. It was hard to get tv in that location on the air and rather expensive for the services. roku is free and if I did not have a separate roku set up elsewhere I could get my xfinity stream over it. the nice thing about roku is I can get stations from around the world in all languages and anything on the internet free that requires no subscription ….almost anything. recently cable tv has become a lot like it with stale old second rate movies so this is just perfect for me and I get CNBC live on it without cable too.

  6. Avatar
    Larry Alex
    Oct 7 2018, 04:04:22 pm

    If their solution is “programmatic advertising”, I foresee a rebellion. I will pay whatever is necessary NOT to see ads. That’s why I have Netflix and Hulu to begin with. Their business model may be a house of cards unless someone can tell me why I would watch ads if I don’t have to on streaming services?

    • 12128 |
      Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe
      Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe
      Oct 8 2018, 09:16:58 am

      “Programmatic” is on the ad buyer end — it basically means using more technology and analytics to place ads more beneficially.

      And yes, a big chunk of the “primed for better analytics” ad market is television and streaming video — TTD does depend on growth in ad-supported streaming to some extent, with the conviction that there will always be people who want free or low-cost video and ads enable that. We’ll see.

  7. Avatar
    Michael Jimmy Ray DeLao
    Jan 15 2019, 03:19:05 am

    Thay called me a motly fool back in 1991 when Thay asked me what stock would I invest in I tould them penny stock Thay said I was a motly fool but stated Thay would invest and if payed off start a conversation motly fool fund. David asked me to work for him doing data and data checks in my Gmail.back then,so I did for them.tell 1993 I did not talk to David again tell the summer of 2001 wen I asked for the mony Thay owed me for the work I did in my Gmail for them.he asked me too work again for him again data an bata checks.he started someday I would be payed.well I would like my payment back from the ones that lied aboute me and stold my data and stocks,thay lied about me I worked for them.and you say thare here then have them pay me for the years of data bata work I did for them,in 2016 before Tom past on .all kinds of data was should from my phone data belonging to me from them for my job,now some ones at fault.and I won’t my pay.david upon leaving had over 180 Tom Gardner 18 the green.why was I should from.????Michael Jimmy Ray DeLao.i I got no reason to lie ,most people around here got mad cus I was allwase working for them in my Gmail.the data would come in my Gmail I would put in my Gmail an if I make tell the end of the data go on to the next if not red flag it stop and go to next Thay would fix and I would do again.check back 1991 thru 1993 and 2001 thru 2009.agan David called me the motly fool he said hes was going make me a million funds pleas.

  8. Avatar
    Sep 16 2019, 06:17:35 pm

    I’m a bit new to stocks in general, but this same “buy now” from motley came to my inbox today, 9/16/19. I see from this site it is exactly the same thing word-for-word a year ago, or more. I’m getting tired of all the click bait with these stock guru’s, and me thinks they just want that $49 from thousands of people. I even had 1 the other day where it was titled “3 stocks to avoid” I read the entire thing, then the next day (from the same people) I get “3 stocks to buy now!” AND THEY WERE THE SAME STOCKS!

  9. Avatar
    Edward Fannon
    Oct 18 2019, 08:34:58 am

    Stick with companies that are NOW part of the nation’s infrastructure. Look for stocks that are cheap, have earnings and pay a dividend. Nobody wants oil and gas stocks—except me. Here are some cheap ones the come to mind: CVX (the very best), XOM (the next best), MUR, XEC. Two years from now CBS will double, and CVS (up recently) but nowhere where it will be this time next year—and it goes ex-divd. on 10/23.

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