CTHRA Survey: MSOs, Programmers Hiked Comp In 2013

Salary Packages Advanced At About 3% Clip, National Average

Cable-TV distributors and programmers increased their compensation packages for employees in line with the national average of around 3%, an annual survey by the Cable and Telecommunications Human Resources Association found.

“Overall, it was a strong year for compensation among programmers and MSOs with steady salary growth, bonuses that met or exceeded target and strong stock awards and performance,” Hali Croner, CEO of The Croner Company, which conducted the survey, said in a CTHRA release. The release said it wasn’t surprising that companies in the cable sector had increased compensation for employees, as retaining talent is a strategic business initiative for many employers in the industry.

Sixty-three companies participated in the survey (click here for more about CTHRA surveys). For the third year in a row, cable salaries grew at a pace consistent with the national average. In general, steady growth in base salary drove most of the compensation increases for non-executives at both programmers and cable operators, CTHRA said.

Selected executives at MSOs and programmers saw strong performance of short-term incentives (STIs) and in some cases, large long-term incentive (LTI) awards.

On a macro level, CTHRA noted that, even with flattening subscriber bases, MSO growth was fueled by higher rates from expanded services, higher-speed broadband offerings, increases in broadband subscribers and rising affiliate fees. Programmers were bolstered by increased advertising revenues — up 3% to $66 billion in 2013 and expected to reach $75 billion by 2017. The media industry’s recent strong performance has helped produce the best risk-adjusted stock return of the top S&P 500 industry categories.

CTHRA’s analysis showed 2013 salary adjustment budgets (which include pay raises delivered through merit increase, promotional increase and market or cost of living adjustment) rose at nearly the same rate as last year.

Cable operators reported an average salary adjustment budget of 3%, while programmer salary budgets grew by 2.9%. Nationwide, 2013 salary adjustment budgets averaged a 2.9% increase.

Among cable operators, base salaries grew consistently across all job categories — 3% — with the exception of corporate management, which saw base salaries rise by 5% in 2013. Another notable exception was the robust gain in total direct compensation (TDC) for MSO executives — jumping 28% in 2013 — fueled by large LTI awards for selected executives. This spike was powered by MSOs’ rising market capitalization as well as by increases in shares awarded.

The other significant, positive trend in MSO compensation was the strong performance of STI awards versus target. In 2013, bonuses exceeded targets to a greater extent than last year and outpaced last year in all categories — ranging from 3% above target for corporate and salaried employees to 10% above target for sales.

Base salaries for non-sales positions also rose among programmers, with increases ranging from 1% to 4%. These increases drove most compensation growth for non-sales positions. The exception — executives — for whom STI increases, and in selected cases LTI awards, boosted pay.

A bright spot for programmers was the robust compensation surge for nearly all sales positions, particularly ad sales. Base salaries for sales jobs rose from 1% to 10%, with ad sales account executives (AEs) seeing the biggest gains. Bonuses drove compensation still higher for many in this sector, especially ad sales AEs who experienced a 17% increase in TCC in 2013.

Participation in CTHRA’s 2013 Compensation Surveys increased this year to 63 companies (13 MSOs and 50 programmers) from 60 in 2012. Participants represented the majority of the industry’s employers, including all of the top 25 national cable networks, five national broadcast networks, 10 of the 11 largest cable operators (including two satellite delivery companies) and two regional MSOs. The survey results are industry-specific, providing an in-depth analysis of pay practices for more than 165,000 incumbents, including both exempt and nonexempt positions ranging from technicians to top executives.

The 63 participants submitted data reflecting 2013 budgets and base compensation figures. Croner Co. developed the surveys, and collected and analyzed the data, separating results into two participant categories: MSOs and programmers. Given the highly confidential survey data, the results from any given company cannot be seen. Only summary information pertaining to all participants is available. This reporting approach complies with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulation and encourages participation without fear of exposing proprietary information to the public.