2015 Cynopsis Media Salary Survey

2015 Cynopsis Media Salary Survey

By Michael Rondon

They say good things come to those who wait—it’s true for those in the television industry, at least.

Age and experience are two of the most critical factors when it comes to pay, according to the second annual Cynopsis Salary Survey. More than 2,000 respondents took part in the study, reporting on everything from demographics like gender and education levels, to the size and type of company they’re employed by, to their individual work habits.

While gaps in compensation are to be expected (especially when it comes to factors like age and experience) the size of those differences can be surprising. Take career experience, for example. Those with more than 15 years in the business stand to out earn less-seasoned colleagues by an average of 140 percent or almost $90,000.

As you’d expect, individual job duties, like the number of employees supervised or frequency of travel, also tend to correlate closely with pay. Those overseeing more than 10 people make about 80 percent or $80,000 more than those with smaller staffs beneath them; if you take 10 or more business trips per year, you’re likely to make 58 percent or $60,000 more than colleagues who spend more time at headquarters.

Size Doesn’t Matter

Meanwhile, a few factors commonly associated with pay might not be as impactful as you think. Company size, for instance, bears almost no correlation to salary in the television industry, as a whole. There’s just a 6-percent average difference in pay between someone working at a company with fewer than a hundred employees, and someone who’s part of a workforce 10-times that size.

It doesn’t really pay off to be a workaholic either. While overall there’s a 37-percent difference in salary between staffers who put in more than 45 hours per week and their less-burdened colleagues, the gap is only distinct at the highest levels of a department—it’s less than 10 percent for those in coordinator/associate, managerial or directorial roles.

Bonus Bonanza

Salary isn’t everything though. Nearly 60 percent of respondents received additional cash compensation last year, averaging about $14,000. Of course, those numbers shift significantly as you make your way up the corporate ladder—36 percent of coordinators/associates get a bonus, usually around $5,000, while 78 percent of SVP/EVPs cashed bonus checks averaging almost $24,000. (It’s also worth noting that more SVP/EVPs reported receiving bonuses, and for higher amounts, than their bosses in executive management.)

Non-monetary benefits are harder to quantify, but they’re also part of a compensation package. Respondents report receiving between two and three of the 11 benefits listed on the survey, with maternity leave (55 percent), flexible work schedules (34 percent) and paternity leave (34 percent) as the most common.

In all, television industry employees are more satisfied than not with how they’re compensated. In fact, the amount of “somewhat satisfied” responses (49 percent) nearly doubled the number of “somewhat dissatisfied[s]” received (25 percent), while those on the far ends of the spectrum (“completely satisfied” and “very dissatisfied”) cancel each other out with 13 percent each.

The More Things Change…

Taking a bigger picture view, most of the data from this year’s survey backs up the findings from 2014—salary influences based on demographics, job duties and experience are each consistent, plus or minus a few percentage points, with the prior year. Even bonus pay and satisfaction levels were within the margin of error.

The impact of your employer was the exception however, and both of the corporate factors measured in this study tend to matter less in 2015. Respondents report an overall difference of just 49 percent due to the type of company they work for, compared to a 69 percent difference last year. It’s a similar story for company size, albeit on a smaller scale—the size of your employer was likely to account only a 6-percent swing in pay, compared to a 12 percent gap in 2014.

Methodology: Cynopsis collected data from August 17 to August 21, 2015 via an online survey emailed to subscribers. The survey closed for tabulation with 1,805 usable responses. The margin for error is +/- 2.2 percentage points at the 99 percent confidence level.

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If you’re in business development, the type of company you work for could be the biggest determining factor behind how much you’re paid. Respondents employed by education institutes report making close to double their peers at the low end of the pay scale.

While data for educational institutes should be taken with a grain of salt—the sample size for this group was comparatively small—there’s a clear connection between pay and company type that grows as you climb the org chart. Coordinators/Associates show differences of just 27 percent based on company type, while VPs report a gulf 7-times wider than that.

Experience also plays a critical role for those in business development. Veterans stand to earn about 80 percent more than less-experienced colleagues in similar roles.

Staffers in business development are some of the best compensated when it comes to bonuses, but only a comparative few are lucky enough to actually receive a payout. Just 45 percent of respondents say they got a bonus last year, though the amount ($18,600) was significantly larger than the industry mean.

Satisfaction levels mirror that of the industry as a whole, with two-thirds of business development respondents claiming they’re at least somewhat happy with their compensation.

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Size matters when it comes to pay for those in buying and planning, but it depends on exactly what’s being measured.

The size of the staff supervised is one of the factors most strongly correlated to salary. Those overseeing more than 10 employees report making an average of 112 percent or $85,000 more than colleagues in charge of smaller departments. The gaps are largest for managers and directors, tapering off at the highest and lowest levels of buying and planning.

Conversely, company size doesn’t really matter at all. There’s just an 11 percent difference in pay from the smallest to the largest businesses out there. While the gap increases as you make your way up the food chain—from 4 percent as a coordinator/associate, to around 20 percent as a mid-level staffer, to 54 percent as an SVP/EVP—it’s still one of the least impactful factors overall.

Bonuses also occupy a fascinating place in buying and planning departments. Three-quarters of respondents say they received one last year—15 percent more than the industry, as a whole—but at just over $8,100, the amount is only half of the industry average.

Those low bonus payouts could have something to do with the less-than-stellar satisfaction rates reported in the study. Overall satisfaction dipped below industry norms, particularly at the lower levels of the department, and just 8 percent say they’re “completely satisfied” with their compensation.

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Once again, experience stands out as perhaps the biggest pay differentiator with gaps of around 80 percent between the most- and least-veteran staffers in finance and legal departments.

Few other categories match that impact, but several are noticeably higher than industry averages. Education, for example, accounts for a 42-percent gap in pay, compared to just 26 percent for the business, at large.

Patterns around gender disparities are also worth highlighting. At 17 percent, the gap between male and female finance and legal staffers was below the industry norm (27 percent), but it’s not applied evenly throughout the department. While directors and above report no discernable difference in pay, coordinators/associates show a 51-percent difference.

Bonuses for the group are among the best in the business in both value and frequency. Almost three quarters of respondents report getting additional cash compensation last year, with dollar amounts averaging more than $17,000.

That bonus pay didn’t necessarily translate to higher satisfaction levels though. In fact, just 57 percent of respondents in finance and legal departments fell in the “satisfied” camp.

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The gender gap is at its widest in human resources and operations, accounting for an 86-percent or $68,000 difference in pay.

While nearly every level of the departments come in above the 27-percent average industry disparity, the gulf widens the higher you rise in a company. Entry-level staffers report just a 7-percent difference, but that quickly balloons to 30 to 40 percent for managers, directors and VPs, before jumping up to 120 percent at the SVP/EVP level. Men and women might be paid equally when they come in, but it’s not staying that way throughout their careers.

Geography also plays a larger-than-normal role in determining salary for those in human resources and operations. The gap between the highest- and lowest-paying regions—the West and outside the U.S., respectively—is more than twice that of the industry norm.

Bonuses don’t do much to level the playing field either. While about 60 percent of respondents in the respective departments say they got one last year—right on target with the rest of the industry—the average payout is about $1,500 less than their colleagues receive.

That hasn’t done much to hurt satisfaction though. A full two-thirds of respondents in human resources and operations say that they’re satisfied with their compensation.

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More doesn’t always equal more pay. Respondents from marketing and public relations departments putting in more than 45 hours per week only saw minor upticks in salary—usually under $6,000—compared to colleagues who leave work on time.

In fact, at the coordinator/associate level, those working fewer than 45 hours a week actually report making about $6,000 more than counterparts who stay late.

Other job-specific duties do play a bigger role however. The number of employees supervised, for example, can account for more than a 100-percent difference in salary—respondents with 10 or more direct reports make an average of $101,000 more than colleagues who oversee smaller staffs.

Bonus pay for marketing and public relations professionals is typical of what’s seen throughout the rest of the television industry for both frequency and dollar amounts—63 percent of respondents say they received a bonus in 2014, for an average of $12,800.

The same goes for satisfaction levels. Respondents mirrored the averages for the industry as a whole, with an approximate 60-40 split between those satisfied and dissatisfied with their compensation.

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While the majority of salary factors in production and writing are almost exactly on par with the television business at large, three major points of differentiation stand out.

The first, hours worked, is an extension of a trend seen in other departments: working longer days might not be the best route toward a salary bump. Those above and below the 45-hour-per-week threshold only have a 16-percent difference in pay, compared to a 37-percent gap overall.

The second, travel frequency, runs counter to the rest of the survey. Respondents in writing and production say there’s just a 17-percent gap between those who travel for business frequently (defined as 10 or more times per year) and those who don’t. The average gap for the rest of the television industry was more than 3-times larger.

Bonus pay is the third major point of separation, as extra cash was doled out sparingly to production and writing departments. Just 30 percent say they received a bonus last year, for an average of $11,200—both figures come in well below most other business units.

Surprisingly, those low bonus totals didn’t have much of an impact on satisfaction though. Once again, respondents were split about 60-40 between “satisfied” and “dissatisfied.”

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Company size has almost no bearing on pay for those in the television business—except for people who work in programming. Bigger doesn’t necessarily equal better (pay) though.

Interestingly, respondents say mid-sized companies (firms with between 100 and 999 employees) pay the best, followed by large corporations and, finally, small businesses. With just a 44-percent gap (about $39,000) between the two ends of the spectrum here, there are ultimately a host of other factors that play a bigger role, but it’s worth noting that the rest of the industry typically sees pay impacted by just 6 percent based on company size.

Hours worked is another area where programming departments diverge from industry norms. Time in the office doesn’t matter much elsewhere, but it accounts for a 73-percent gap in pay for those in programming.

Bonus pay is slightly above average, as well. Almost two-thirds of respondents got at least some cash compensation beyond their salary last year, with the typical amount coming in at $14,200.

Survey takers are ultimately pretty happy with those figures. More than 60 percent of those in programming say they’re at least “somewhat satisfied” with their compensation packages.

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Demographics play a unique role in determining salary outcomes for those in research departments.

While the influence of age is level with the rest of the television industry at about 50 percent, education and location have almost double the impact in research as they do elsewhere—each can account for differences of around $40,000.

Meanwhile, gender has almost no correlation to pay. With only a 9-percent difference in salary between men and women, and with a fairly consistent application across levels of the department, it’s the most gender-neutral group in the study. (Business development also has a 9-percent difference in pay based on gender, but the gap widened significantly at the highest and lowest levels of the department.)

Bonuses were a mixed bag with more research staffers receiving extra cash (almost two-thirds), but for a lower amount ($12,000) than colleagues averaged, as a whole.

The group still ranks as one of the happiest with their compensation though. More than 70 percent of respondents say they’re satisfied, including 16 percent that claim to be “completely satisfied.”

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Location, location, location—it’s a big deal for professionals in sales and distribution.

The typical gap between the highest- and lowest-paid regions is almost 3-times larger than that for the rest of the industry, accounting for about $56,000 on average. Digging into the numbers though, the domestic disparities aren’t shocking (in fact, respondents from the Northeast, South and West all make about the same amount), since the lowest-paying region is outside the U.S.

Employees supervised is the more eye-catching indicator. Respondents in sales and distribution who oversee at least 10 employees say they earn about 110 percent or $124,000 more than colleagues in charge of smaller departments.

Not surprisingly, bonus pay is a big part of the compensation package for those in sales and distribution. Four in five respondents say they received a bonus check last year—the highest rate in the business—with an average dollar amount of nearly $20,000.

Satisfaction levels were just average though. Just over 60 percent of takers say they’re satisfied with their pay.

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Age and experience are two of the most critical factors when it comes to pay in the television industry, but they take on a much smaller role at the highest levels of the business.

Respondents in executive management report just a 7-percent salary gap for those above and below age 45, compared to 51-percent difference for the industry, at large. The same goes for experience at a specific company and in your overall career—the impact for execs is roughly one-quarter of what it is for their employees.

Meanwhile, company factors take on a greater role. Size, for instance, can account for a 75-percent difference in pay, with those at the largest firms pulling in $120,000 more than colleagues overseeing workforces of less than 100. The overall industry gap based on size is just 6 percent.

Those in executive management received the biggest bonuses of any group, taking home an average of more than $21,000, but just 41 percent actually received anything. Only staffers at the coordinator/associate level got bonuses at a lower rate.

The bosses were happiest with their pay of any segment in the survey. Three-quarters of the group says they’re satisfied, including 26 percent who classify as “completely satisfied.”

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And Some Wisdom from Industry Experts

Cynopsis Media had the opportunity to catch up with two seasoned executives, Robert DeFrank, VP, Human Resources for A + E Networks and Mary Olson-Menzel Managing Director and Founding Partner Sagin LLC and MVP Executive Search. Here’s what the experts had to say about our findings.

Q: Experience, in several forms (age, at a specific company, in a career), was the most impactful element we found. Is it usually No. 1 among the factors that impact salary?
A: (Mary Olson-Menzel) Experience, attitude and cultural fit are the things that matter most to me and to my clients regardless of industry or geographical location. Is the experience relevant to the specific job? Has the executive had upward mobility and progressed in positions and titles throughout their career history. Do they have the right attitude and will they blend well with the existing team? If all of these pieces are in place for them, they will usually be able to command a higher salary (within the designated range that the employer is willing to pay). Keep in mind that today’s media marketplace does not always pay top dollar in the way that it used to. People are expected to do a lot more for the same amount of money, wearing several different hats. It is the nature of what’s happening in the industry, so much compression and consolidation of companies and jobs. An individual really has to look at the overall opportunity and the big picture when negotiating any kind of compensation package.

Q: The gender pay gap was 27 percent. How does this compare to other industries?
A: (Robert DeFrank) I was quite surprised at this result, especially since this survey was media centric. I believe in 2014 Forbes managed a survey that indicated the gender gap was 23% across all industries so the 27% is striking. The media industry, including A+E Networks, has typically been at the forefront of gender equality when it comes to compensation, especially when you consider that many of the senior creative positions within the media industry, and thus the more highly compensated, are women.

Q: Location only accounted for a 28-percent difference in pay. Are the salaries in these regions simply commensurate with the cost of living there (NE specifically)? Or are there other factors in play?
A: (Robert DeFrank) To some degree that is true. While most major media companies do not index when determining employee compensation (i.e. similar pay for similar jobs) by location, cost of living may play a part in determining salaries at smaller companies.

Q: Company size had a minuscule impact on pay at just 6 percent. Does employer size really not matter? Might it matter for other reasons aside from salary?
A: (Mary Olson-Menzel) The size of the company can potentially matter, some of the larger companies have bigger budgets and can afford to pay a bit more. The smaller companies can usually give you more responsibility in the roles they have and because of the size, they are usually more nimble and flexible on the total compensation package and what that looks like.

Trish Pihonak