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Future of Tech : Facebook's Dominance Challenged by Social-Media Splinter

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10/22/2019 | 02:15pm EST

By Heather Somerville

Facebook Inc.'s dominance is declining as people spend more of their attention on alternative social-media platforms that promise privacy or cater to selective interests and hobbies.

A lack of public trust in Facebook and growing interest in alternative social networks such as discussion forum Reddit Inc. and mobile-video app TikTok have caused the social-media market to splinter, according Michael Wolf, co-founder and chief executive of consulting firm Activate Inc. Taken together, these networks pose a threat to Facebook, which is already under siege by governments and users for its personal data-collection practices and the spread of misinformation on its platform.

The trend is one of several in the tech and media industries that Mr. Wolf is sharing during a presentation at The Wall Street Journal's WSJ Tech Live conference on Tuesday in Laguna Beach, Calif.

Although Facebook's more than 2 billion daily users is unmatched, the amount of time people are spending on Facebook's website monthly has dropped by 26% since 2017, Mr. Wolf's research found.

Social-media users are instead gravitating to networks relevant to their local community or interests, whether it is cannabis, gaming, trail running or best-selling novels.

Today, the average user toggles between about six different social networks. By 2023, people will use an average of about 10, according to Activate's analysis.

"There will be a broad social-networking world beyond Facebook as other large social networks' growth exceeds Facebook's," Mr. Wolf said in an interview.

Mr. Wolf also forecasts that online sports betting is poised to become a massive financial trading market, with bets wagered growing more than 11-fold by 2023. Industry players include everyone from tech companies to television networks. It isn't just football and baseball enthusiasts eager to place bets, but also fans of drone racing, bull riding and the urban acrobatics known as parkour. Mr. Wolf predicts that total annual U.S. sports wagering will grow from $13 billion to $149 billion in five years.

Key to this industry's growth is employing sophisticated data science and machine learning to make determinations about the outcome of games. The risk: Legislative headwinds might emerge in the 24 states where bills to legalize sports betting are pending.

Other findings from Mr. Wolf's presentation:

-- Consumers will subscribe to more video-streaming services, particularly as prices remain relatively affordable, with the average number of subscriptions per consumer growing from more than two to nearly five in 2023. Despite streaming media giants Netflix Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Hulu investing a combined $4 billion in original content this year, viewers are often more interested in licensed classics like "Seinfeld" and "Friends."

-- A large share of streaming music fans are getting their tunes free by settling for ad-based services and avoiding monthly subscription fees. Almost 40% of people who currently don't pay for a music service say they are happy with the free version and may never want to pay. Alphabet Inc.'s YouTube has the highest number of free music tracks at 3 billion.

-- More digital financial services are branching out from online payments to credit services, such as point-of-sale loans and credit cards, in a bid to fuel growth.

-- E-commerce remains a small piece of the overall retail industry but will nearly double in size to $6.8 trillion in annual global sales by 2023. China continues to be a leader, including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.-owned Tmall.com and Taobao.com.

-- The number of podcasts available on iTunes jumped from 60,000 in 2015 to 750,000 this year, and will continue growing. Listeners are flocking to podcasts because of the ability to multitask while listening to audio. More than a quarter of listeners say they always combine listening with some other activity, whether that is driving a car, exercising or shopping.

Write to Heather Somerville at Heather.Somerville@wsj.com

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Financials (USD)
Sales 2019 70 463 M
EBIT 2019 24 555 M
Net income 2019 18 276 M
Finance 2019 52 949 M
Yield 2019 -
P/E ratio 2019 30,2x
P/E ratio 2020 21,2x
EV / Sales2019 7,00x
EV / Sales2020 5,54x
Capitalization 546 B
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Technical analysis trends FACEBOOK
Short TermMid-TermLong Term
Income Statement Evolution
Mean consensus BUY
Number of Analysts 49
Average target price 235,29  $
Last Close Price 191,55  $
Spread / Highest target 41,0%
Spread / Average Target 22,8%
Spread / Lowest Target -37,4%
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Mark Elliot Zuckerberg Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
Sheryl Kara Sandberg Chief Operating Officer & Director
David M. Wehner Chief Financial Officer
Michael Todd Schroepfer Chief Technology Officer
Atish Banerjea Chief Information Officer
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