Industry Salaries Skyrocket for High Demand Jobs

Since 2002, our association has annually conducted an industry-specific survey to provide compensation benchmarks for MSOs/operators and programmers. In 2018, the 59 participants represented approximately 205,000 employees and provided data for 869 job positions ranging from entry level to executives.

The ongoing push to customize the viewers’ experience and the aggressive spend for content development by digital players is dramatically driving compensation for business development, programming and installation jobs in the cable and media industry. The recently released surveys also revealed that programmer compensation grew robustly for executives and operating support personnel, while management gained larger salary increases at multiple system operators (MSOs).

“C2HR's Annual Compensation Surveys uncover market pressures and valuable metrics that our members use to ensure competitive compensation strategies,” said Pamela Williams, CAE, C2HR’s executive director.

“These are the most comprehensive surveys of our industry available.  Without them, we would be somewhat hamstrung for data unique to our industry or to correlate with data outside our industry,” said Robert Scott, director of compensation for Cox Communications.

The 2018 surveys uncovered the fiercely competitive market for specific “hot” jobs, propelled by continued pressure from digital media. In 2017, Netflix was the fifth highest investor in content development, spending $6.3 billion on non-sports programming with Amazon (No. 7) following at $4.5 billion.1

“That’s a huge amount of spend invading,” said Hali Croner, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of The Croner Company, the research and compensation consulting firm that conducted the surveys for C2HR.  “In the programming space, salaries are going up to compete with technology and digital companies that are premium payers.”

1MoffettNathanson, Recode February 2018

Business Development Salaries
At programmers, the largest base salary increases occurred for positions in business development and programming (see Figure 1). For example, base salary for executive vice president (EVP) of business development (BD) soared by 10% over 2017, while BD managers, directors and individual contributors (ICs) saw gains of 9%, 7% and 7% respectively. These individuals are responsible for securing new content partnerships, co-branding agreements and user acquisitions (i.e., “more eyeballs watching your content”).

Text Box: Figure 1. Hot Jobs Accrue Large Salary Increases     2018 Paired Compensation Base Salary Increases

“Business development is seeing a premium because of the need for new revenue streams and strong people in those areas,” said Croner. “Traditional TV revenue is still amazing, but it’s not growing the way that digital is.”

Lisa Kaye, president and CEO of greenlightjobs, and co-chair of C2HR’s Compensation Surveys, added that programmers are looking for ways to leverage YouTube streaming, podcasts and other digital media platforms. “They need to be more creative about how they are producing content to get it out to people quicker, faster and easier so they can monetize it. That’s pushing the business model, and that is why business development jobs are hot,” she said.

“Historically, cable programmers were heavy on acquisition from independents. A lot of that is moving in house again,” she added. “They want to be able to churn out and own the content so that they can have as many distribution platforms as possible.”

Base salaries for numerous programming jobs also increased dramatically, climbing by 8% for director of current programming and director of program scheduling while skyrocketing by 12% for senior director of program acquisitions.

“If Netflix and Amazon are making a huge spend in programming and they are picking off your top people, then programming talent becomes scarce. Those jobs become hot,” said Croner. Such scarcity spurs compensation.

Installers and Technicians Garner Gains
MSOs also responded to competitive pressures, such as Charter’s and Amazon’s move to increase their minimum wage to $15 an hour and a national unemployment rate that’s hovering at 3.7%, a near 50-year low. Among MSOs, installation jobs achieved the largest raises. Base salaries climbed by 4% for installation/service technician Level 3 to 9% for supervisor of installation/service (see Figure 1).

“These individuals — who go into the home — are the most important representatives of the company,” said Croner. “Companies are doing what they can through compensation, training and enhancing the employee experience to make sure they keep them and reward their strong performers.”

Scott concurred. “Our Universal Home Tech is uniquely situated to address any concerns of the customer and to recommend other products or services in which the customer may be interested, such as home security, faster Internet speed if gaming stations are apparent or if multiple devices (door bells, tablets, etc.) can be observed,” he said.

“This last face-to-face with the customer requires skills beyond just technical skills — discernment, respect, soft selling, addressing concerns and advocating the features, advantages and benefits of the additional services being discussed, which may be a reason for the increase in pay, as well as the proliferation of others getting into the installation space,” continued Scott. 

Additionally, the skills, abilities and talent of those in technology, sales, customer service, network readiness, network operations and a host of other functions are “key to delivering content anywhere, anytime whenever the customer expresses the want, need, or desire,” he added.

Merit Budget Remains Stable
Increases for hot jobs occurred against the backdrop of a 3% salary merit budget for the industry, slightly higher than the 2.9% national average. Programmers reported total compensation exceeding the budget in all employment categories. Programming executives garnered the greatest gains, achieving a 5.5% increase in total direct compensation (TDC), which includes all three elements of compensation — base salary, bonus and stock incentives (see Figure 2). Operating support personnel, such as technical directors and camera operators, accrued 5.0% TDC, while operating ICs earned 3.4% TDC.

Text Box: Figure 2. Programmer Compensation Growth 2017–2018     For companies that participated in both the 2017 and 2018 C2HR Compensation Surveys.

At MSOs, management, which includes supervisor through EVP, achieved the greatest gains: 5.1% base salary increase and 4.6% TDC. MSO salaried employees fell below the merit budget at 1.8% base salary increase and 2.1% TDC raise (see Figure 3).

Text Box: Figure 3. MSO Compensation Growth 2017–2018     For companies that participated in both the 2017 and 2018 C2HR Compensation Surveys; excludes sales positions. Represents incumbent weighted average movement.

These increases indicate a responsivity to market conditions. “Companies are paying attention to people who are long-term contributors and taking care of them,” explained Croner.

Geography continues to impact salaries for MSO installers and service technicians. Base salaries were higher in the West by 8% (lead) to 16% (expert) and East by 3% (developing) to 12% (expert), while MSOs in the Southwest, Mountain, Midwest and South reported lower salaries for installers and techs.

New Job Families in Sales, Technology and Business Intelligence
To ensure continued relevancy of C2HR’s Compensation Surveys, each year participants meet to hone job families and position titles for data collection. The 2018 surveys collected data on 337 MSO positions and 532 programmer positions, an increase over last year. The programmer survey also continued to collect international salary data.

MSO participants added two new job families and 19 new positions to the 2018 survey. Many of these support today’s reality of content anywhere, anytime; new technology-dependent service launches; and entry into new sales channels. New MSO job families include wireless engineering and store retail sales. New positions include: associate wireless engineer to VP of wireless engineering, manager of home security installation/ service, program acquisition analyst/coordinator, manager of store retail sales, supervisor of master control and manager/director of workforce and traffic management.

Home security and business/commercial security will continue to be important; commercial revenue is critical to future growth,” said Cox’s Robert Scott. “High-speed Internet is the lifeblood for everyone with a digital appliance, phone, tablet, refrigerator or rice cooker....”

Programmers and broadcasters added six new job families and 47 new positions. These jobs reflect the critical need for data to support over-the-top (OTT) content delivery, marketing to OTT viewers and creative advertising sales strategies. Job families included: styling, digital production technology, effects artists, business intelligence engineering, advertising solutions, and extract transform and load developing (data management). New positions include: manager to VP of business intelligence, associate marketing strategy IC to SVP of marketing strategy, senior photographer to VP of photography, stylist/senior stylist, manager/director of media operations, VP library and digital assets, effects artist and manager/director of motion graphics design.

Digital Still Outpays Programmers
Despite robust compensation increases at programmers surveyed, digital natives continue to pay more than traditional media companies in all key job families except for editorial (see Figure 4).

Text Box: Figure 4. Digital Versus Media       Source: 2018 Digital Content and Technology Survey

“Even though programmers are making really strong shifts, they can’t match what strong digital payers will pay,” said Croner.

According to the Croner Company’s 2018 Digital Content and Technology Survey, TDC at digital and technology companies ranges from 45% more for software engineering, to 80% more for content talent, to an astounding 158% more for data science jobs.

“Digital companies live off data science. They will find and keep those people with big packages,” Croner added.

Bonuses Prevalent Across Industry
The industry continued its broad-based support for short-term incentives or bonuses. In 2018, 93% of MSOs offered bonuses, as did 89% of programmers. Eligibility reached deep into the organizations, as 77% of MSOs and 63% of programmers offered bonuses to employees below managers (See Figure 5).

Text Box: Figure 5. Bonuses Remain Broad-Based

Text Box: Figure 6. Stock Incentives Limited to Management

Once again, long-term incentives (LTIs) such as shares, stock options and long-term cash remained largely limited to management (See Figure 6). At MSOs, 93% of participants offered LTIs, with 100% of directors, VPs and executives receiving incentives.

Among programmers, 76% of participants offered LTIs in 2018, although penetration was less consistent than at MSOs, as 100% of executives received LTIs, compared to 83% of VPs and 47% of directors. This year, 8% of MSOs and 10% of programmers extended LTI eligibility to employees below managers. Cable employers continued to primarily offer full-value shares rather than options or cash.

Health and Fitness Amenities Grow
Four years ago, C2HR, recognizing the expanded notion of compensation at digital companies, began collecting data on amenities. In 2018, the industry offered more perks to compete with digital. For the first time, 14% of MSOs reported offering free food as did 16% of programmers, compared with 56% of digital natives (see Figure 7).

Enhanced work environments continued to be popular with survey respondents, as 86% of MSOs and 76% of programmers supported them. Gym memberships also increased to 50% for MSOs and 29% at programmers (see Figure 7).

Text Box: Figure 7. Industry Offering More Amenities

“Health and fitness are tops on the list of what employees are seeking after a stimulating and challenging work environment,” said Cox’s Scott. “While free or highly discounted food was a staple of the earlier technology companies, emphasis on how to remain fit, such as onsite workout facilities, appear to be of greater importance today.”

Telecommuting remains a complex issue for the industry, and mostly offered on a case-by-case basis. Although 100% of digital natives provide a formal telecommuting policy that applies to most or all employees, only 25% of MSOs and 13% of programmers had such policies.

While telecommuting can improve productivity in congested regions, it may be difficult to implement when serving customers due to compliance issues, or when collaborating on content development, Croner noted. “I’m not sure the business model supports telecommuting as much it does for programing code.”

Stiff Competition Ahead
The pressure to deliver new content anywhere, anytime will not soon cease. “The playing field is increasingly competitive, and that will continue – aggressively,” said Lisa Kaye. The industry must, therefore, think creatively about compensation packages.

“Be prepared, flexible and nimble,” advised Scott. “Read all you can about new businesses, opportunities or threats in your local labor markets.” For example, he noted that Amazon opening a distribution center in your area will impact numerous open jobs at all levels, while a new technology center will severely impact the ability to attract and retain highly competent technology jobs. “Being forewarned is being forearmed,” he said.

Kaye advised: “Offering accelerated learning and growth opportunities, flexible working arrangements, greater equity stake and interests and allowing employees to ‘design’ their own compensation structures will give rise to greater attraction and retention of star employees.”

She also suggested that that the cable industry embrace employee-directed compensation practices offered by digital companies, where employees decide for themselves how their compensation mix is divided between base, bonus and incentives.

“That’s a very, very different philosophy from how traditional media and entertainment businesses have operated,” Kaye said. “Not only are digital companies paying more, but they are changing how people get paid.”

She urged the industry to be creative. “Money doesn’t have to be tied to annual performance or grant, and it doesn’t have to be cash.” Donations to charity, funds for continuing education and spot bonuses are viable. “Give employees the flexibility to feel like they have some say in how they are rewarded and compensated,” Kaye added.

Survey Methodology
C2HR’s 2018 Compensation Surveys included 59 participants. Companies included 14 MSOs and 45 programmers (see participant lists below). New participants included: ADT, BBC Studios America Inc., Fanduel Group (TVG Network), Game Show Network LLC and Google LLC (Google Fiber).

The survey results are industry-specific, providing an in-depth analysis of pay practices for approximately 205,000 incumbents, including both exempt and nonexempt positions ranging from technicians to top executives. The participants submitted data reflecting 2018 budgets, base compensation figures, amenities and benefits.

2018 MSO Compensation Survey Participants
Altice USA, Inc.
Cable One, Inc.
Charter Communications, Inc.
Comcast Cable Communications, Inc.
Cox Communications, Inc.
Google LLC
Mediacom Communications Corporation
RCN Telecom Services, LLC
TDS Broadband Service LLC
Verizon Communications Inc.
WOW! Internet, Cable & Phone

2018 Programmers & Broadcast Networks
Compensation Survey Participants
Altice USA, Inc. Services, Inc.
AMC Networks Inc.
BBC Studios Americas, Inc.
Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.
CBS Corporation - CBS Television
CBS Corporation - Showtime Networks Inc.
Charter Communications, Inc.
Crown Media Holdings, Inc.
Discovery Communications, Inc.
Disney ABC Television Group - Disney ABC Television
Disney ABC Television Group - Disney ABC Cable Networks Group
ESPN, Inc.
Fanduel Group (formerly Betfair)
Fox Networks Group, Inc. - Fox Broadcasting Company
Fox Networks Group, Inc. - Fox Cable Networks Group
Fox News Network, LLC
Fuse Media
Game Show Network, LLC
Home Box Office, Inc.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Hulu, LLC
ION Media Networks, Inc.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Madison Square Garden
MLB Network, LLC
National Basketball Association
National Football League
NBCUniversal - NBCUniversal Cable Networks, Comcast Programming
Public Broadcasting Service
QVC, Inc.
Red Bull Media House North America, Inc.
Sony Pictures Entertainment
Starz Entertainment, LLC
The E.W. Scripps Company
Univision Communications Inc.
Viacom Media Networks
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. - The CW Television Network
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. - WBTV
World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.