CTHRA Survey: Programmer Salaries Rise 4.2% in 2012

MSO Pay Climbs 2.6%
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Base salaries for cable network employees rose 4.2% in 2012, outpacing gains in the broader U.S. employment population and posting their biggest increase in four years, according to the annual cable compensation survey by the Cable and Telecommunications Human Resources Association (CTHRA).

For programmers, base salary increases for management positions increased between 4.1% and 5.8%, depending on the level, CTHRA said.   

Overall MSO base salaries rose at a slower pace – 2.6% -- according to CTHRA. But within that segment, base pay for technology positions increase 6.8%, while salaries for marketing positions rose 4.2% in the period.

“We expect this increase is a result of additional competition for talent from emerging competitors and other high tech industries,” said CTHRA’s executive director, Pamela Williams, CAE, in a statement.

While the subscriber base remains largely unchanged, increased revenues from digital video, high-speed Internet and cable phone fueled MSOs’ growth. On the programmer side, cable ad sales continue to rise as advertising dollars shift from broadcast TV to cable. These positive revenue gains helped support pay increases at both MSOs and programmers.

“I think this goes to show that while the industry is changing, we are growing and are investing in people,” said Comcast Cable executive vice president of HR Bill Strahan in a statement.

2012 salary adjustment budgets (which include pay raises delivered through merit increase, promotional increase, market and/or cost of living adjustment) remained mostly even with 2011 results for both MSOs and content providers. MSOs reported an average salary budget increase of 2.9% in 2012 compared to 3% in 2011. Programmers reported an average budget of 3%, compared to 3.2% in 2011. Both industry groups reported higher salary budget increases than the U.S. average of 2.8%.

Incentives also played an increasingly important role in cable compensation packages, according to the CTHRA data. Among CTHRA’s survey respondents, 100% of large MSOs and 57% of mid-size to small operators offer long-term incentives like stock options and long-term cash awards, while 67% of programmers offer them. While large MSOs had substantial increases in the value of long-term incentive awards, mid-size to small MSOs decreased LTI awards slightly from 2011 levels. Higher LTIs at large MSOs were attributable to both the increase in stock price and increased number of shares awarded, mostly to more senior level employees. Content providers also saw LTI values rise for the second year in a row, with substantial increases for executives at the vice president level or above.

Short term incentives like bonus awards were provided by 100% of the large MSOs and 86% of small-to-mid-sized operators, while 89% of programmers offered the awards, according to CTHRA. Overall, short-term incentives for cable operators were at or below target and less than in previous years, while 2012 awards for programmers were above target, but lower than in 2011.

Participation in CTHRA’s 2012 Compensation Survey increased to 60 companies from 47 in 2011, including all of the top 25 national cable networks, five national broadcast networks, the majority of the largest cable and satellite distributors and two regional MSOs. The survey results are industry-specific, providing an in-depth analysis of pay practices for more than 145,000 incumbents, including both exempt and nonexempt positions ranging from technicians to top executives.   

The Croner Company, a leading compensation consulting firm specializing in compensation plan design, compensation surveys and organizational design, 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.