November 27, 2020

The Media Equation: For Media Moguls, Paydays That Outstrip Other Fields

Leaders in other industries may be well paid, but as the accompanying chart shows, they earn far less than their media counterparts.

Consider: the top 20 companies in the United States ranked by market capitalization include no media companies. But according to figures assembled for The New York Times by Equilar, which compiles data on executive compensation, media companies employ seven of the top 20 highest paid chief executives.

The names are familiar and the numbers are large: Leslie Moonves of CBS ($60,253,647), David M. Zaslav of Discovery Communications ($49,932,867), Robert A. Iger of Walt Disney ($37,103,208), Philippe P. Dauman of Viacom ($33,396,104), Jeffrey L. Bewkes of Time Warner ($25,670,263), Brian L. Roberts of Comcast ($25,087,379), and Rupert Murdoch of News Corporation ($22,418,292).

Mr. Moonves was the third highest paid executive in 2012, bested by Larry Ellison, who made $96.2 million as head of Oracle, and Robert Kotick, chief executive of Activision Blizzard, whose recently announced compensation came to $64.9 million, although much of it is in the form of stock options that vest over five years.

(Activision produces video games like Call of Duty, so depending on how you define media, he might be the highest paid in the industry.)

Mr. Moonves may be in a league of his own, but he is hardly the only chief executive banking hefty compensation. The data indicates that average pay of the 10 highest paid chief executives for media companies was about $30 million, more than the captains of technology or finance and other industries, who average $6 million to $14 million less.

Median pay for the top 20 media executives rose 10 percent in 2012, adding to a very tall stack. Not bad for a legacy industry that is supposedly under sustained attack from insurgents and secular challenges.

Many media companies file their proxy statements at the last possible minute, perhaps part of an effort to avoid ending up on annual surveys of executive compensation, like the one The Times did at the beginning of April. But now that everyone is accounted for, it’s clear that being a king in the media realm comes with a very lucrative crown.

A few important caveats. The margins in the media business can be spectacular when things are going well — operating income at CBS for 2012 was $2.98 billion — which explains in part why the chief executive at Kraft, which is about the same size as CBS and had net earnings of $1.64 billion, makes $6.8 million, not $60 million like Mr. Moonves. Making cheese is fine, but running a media outfit that sells cheese through commercials is where the money is.

Clearly, the market had a crush on media stocks last year. The stock price of CBS rose 42 percent in 2012 while Mr. Zaslav oversaw a 55 percent rise at Discovery. Corporate boards have employment agreements that are usually generous when the arrows on the charts are pointing sharply upward.

“David’s compensation is almost entirely tied to stock appreciation,” said David C. Leavy, a spokesman at Discovery. “With the market continuing to value Discovery’s global growth prospectives, there has been tremendous value creation for shareholders.”

Media companies are prospering by selling their content through all kinds of windows with some raking in cable and retransmission fees that just keep growing. Most major players drove their stock price up 30 percent or more, partly because of excellent results and generous stock buybacks. As might be expected, the vast majority of the compensation comes in the form of performance incentives, as opposed to salary. (Although some of those incentives are very generously structured.)

And it would be churlish to suggest that running a huge company in an industry full of big bets, big egos and big challenges is simple. The media business requires mastering various platforms, multiple divas and, increasingly, myriad foreign markets.

But approving the right projects while monetizing those assets through various channels of distribution is not akin to creating a hardware market, as Apple did, or reinventing the advertising model, as Google has. An average annual compensation of $30 million seems like an entrepreneurial reward being paid out for management execution.

The compensation numbers can add up quickly, especially in an industry that is madly spinning off divisions. Companies may get smaller as they are split into discrete units — Viacom and CBS are two halves of what used to be one orange, as are Time Warner and Time Warner Cable — but the payouts continue to storm along.


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Media Decoder Blog: Fighting Antipiracy Measure, Hackers Click on Media Chiefs

The hacking group Anonymous posted online the personal details of Jeffrey L. Bewkes, left, the chairman of Time Warner, and also leaked information about the family of Sumner M. Redstone, right, who controls Viacom and the CBS Corporation.Mike Segar/ReutersThe hacking group Anonymous posted online the personal details of Jeffrey L. Bewkes, left, the chairman of Time Warner, and also leaked information about the family of Sumner M. Redstone, right, who controls Viacom and the CBS Corporation.

The online activist group known as Anonymous, which has targeted opponents of the Occupy Wall Street movement and businesses that stopped providing services to WikiLeaks, has set its sights on a new adversary: media executives.

In protest of antipiracy legislation currently being considered by Congress, the group has posted online documents that reveal personal information about Jeffrey L. Bewkes, chairman and chief executive of Time Warner, and Sumner M. Redstone, who controls Viacom and the CBS Corporation. Those companies, like almost every major company in the media and entertainment industry, have championed the Stop Online Piracy Act, the House of Representatives bill, known as SOPA, and its related Senate bill, called Protect I.P.

The documents, culled from various databases, included Mr. Bewkes’s home addresses and phone numbers, and encouraged users to bombard the company and its executives with e-mails, faxes and phone calls. Mr. Bewkes has received intimidating phone calls and a barrage of e-mails, according to supporters of the legislation who have knowledge about the matter but are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The documents also included the corporate contact information for a range of companies including NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment and the Walt Disney Company.

A Disney spokeswoman said neither the company nor its chief executive, Robert A. Iger, had received threats. Time Warner declined to comment. The file that was posted regarding Mr. Redstone has details about his family, home and career but does not include private contact information. A Viacom spokeswoman declined to comment.

Anonymous, a loosely organized collective of so-called hacktivists, has called its effort “Operation Hiroshima.” It began on Jan. 1, when the group dropped a trove of documents on Web sites that facilitate anonymous publishing, like and The documents included information about media executives and government figures like Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, and data on corporations and government entities that the group opposes.

“They should feel threatened,” said Barrett Brown, a Dallas-based online activist who has worked with Anonymous, referring to backers of the antipiracy legislation. “The idea is to put pressure on the politicians and companies supporting it.”

The online effort underscores how heated the arguments have become over legislation that may seem like arcane government regulation. Media companies say the legislation, which has bipartisan support, will crack down on illicit downloads of movies, music and television, especially from overseas Web sites. SOPA would expand the ability of the government and private companies to hold Web sites responsible for content the companies believe infringes on their copyrights, allowing greater use of court orders and lawsuits that could ultimately shut down the sites.

The technology industry, including giants like Google and Yahoo, and advocates for Internet freedom say the bills would censor the Internet, stifle free speech and give the government too much power to regulate and shut down Web sites in the United States. Both sides have spent millions on lobbying in Washington. But at the grass-roots level, the issue has galvanized Internet activists, who lack lobbying power but have promoted the cause among the online community.

“You take our speech, you take our Internet, you take our Bill of Rights, you take our Constitution, we fight back,” said a monotone voice on a YouTube video posted by Anonymous before the Operation Hiroshima document drop.

Lawmakers and their aides have also been targets. A photograph of a 25-year-old aide for the House Judiciary Committee was superimposed into pornography by a group related to Anonymous, according to another aide who was briefed on security threats to lawmakers and their staffs. “Why can’t they just hire a lobbyist like everyone else?” this aide said.

The vast majority of SOPA opponents convey their views through legitimate means. Hundreds of Web sites have encouraged blackouts and boycotts to protest the legislation. According to, nearly 12,000 users have changed their Twitter profile pictures to a “Stop SOPA” badge.

“The more outrage expressed on the Internet in the coming days, the better,” said Fred Wilson, a managing partner at Union Square Ventures, a venture capital firm and an early investor in Twitter. He said he did not condone threats or “any kind of intimidation” by hackers.

Last month introduced a function that made the words on documents gradually fade away. As they did, a pop-up prompted users to contact their representatives. “Don’t let the Internet vanish before your eyes,” it read.

The tactics have succeeded in some cases. Initially a supporter, the Web hosting company Go Daddy reversed its position on SOPA after Wikipedia and thousands of other Web sites said they would withdraw their domains from the service. “Go Daddy will support it when and if the Internet community supports it,” Warren Adelman, Go Daddy’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Companies like Time Warner, which owns HBO, CNN and the Warner Brothers studio, and Viacom, which owns MTV and the Paramount studio, have experienced security teams, but they are not necessarily trained to handle anonymous online threats, said Josh Shaul, chief technology officer at Application Security Inc., a New York-based provider of database security software.

“It’s easy to get something taken off a Web site, but it’s impossible to erase things off the Internet,” he said.

Less than a week after the Operation Hiroshima documents were posted, a Twitter message linking to Mr. Bewkes’s home phone numbers and addresses, his annual income and his wife’s name and age had spread across the Internet. The message included #OpHiroshima, the shortened Twitter code for the effort.

The global activists in the nebulous collection known as Anonymous often use computer skills to support political causes. For example, Anonymous demanded a full Christmas dinner for Pfc. Bradley Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who is in prison facing charges of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks.

Last month, hackers associated with Anonymous published a trove of e-mail addresses and the personal information of subscribers of Stratfor, a security group based in Austin, Tex. Last year, a splinter group affiliated with Anonymous attacked the Sony Corporation, shutting down its PlayStation online network. The attack cost the company around $171 million, according to industry estimates. Movements like Anonymous often squabble among themselves, but SOPA is a uniquely unifying cause, said Gabriella Coleman, a professor at McGill University and an expert on hacking. To these activists, she said, “Internet freedom is not controversial.”

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Facebook Is Developing Ways to Share Media

The company is in discussions with several online music services, including the European company Spotify, to develop a tab or widget that would display a user’s most-played songs and provide an easy way for friends to hear them, two people involved in the discussions said.

Facebook wants to do the same for other kinds of media, like video and news, said these people, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the talks are confidential.

Facebook, which has nearly 700 million users, would not comment on its plans. But analysts and media executives said the company’s move into media was part of its ambition to become a hub for all types of activities on the Internet. And as the company sees it, people increasingly define themselves through the media they consume, they said.

In a statement, Facebook said, “We’re always looking for better ways to help people discover the most relevant content on Facebook but have nothing to announce.”

With media highlighted as a permanent and highly visible part of a user’s profile page, the company hopes to replicate the success it has had in becoming a top destination for games in other forms of entertainment. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, hinted at the company’s plans during a presentation at the eG8 technology conference in France this week.

“Listening to music is something that people do with their friends,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “Music, TV, news, books — those types of things I think people just naturally do with their friends. I hope we can play a part in enabling those new companies to get built, and companies that are out there producing this great content to become more social.”

Facebook has long worked to spread its tentacles across the Web, and to persuade media companies to use its data about connections between people to make their services more “social.” In France, Mr. Zuckerberg mentioned Netflix as one of the companies that had been in talks with Facebook.

Several music services, like Spotify and Pandora, already allow users to log in with their Facebook credentials, and they personalize their sites for users based on the activities of their friends. But Facebook wants to make it easier for users to tap into those activities on its site.

According to the people involved in the negotiations, Facebook’s various media partners would each have a part in a continuous feed displaying the songs a user is listening to or the video a user is watching. Friends could then gain access to the same content with a click. By using outside partners, Facebook itself would not license any content from record companies or television networks.

Facebook is known for tinkering with products until they are ready, and the features of Facebook’s new services for music and other media could change before they are released.

The effort could pay off in a big way if Facebook succeeds in devising features that would allow its members to pay for access to third-party music services using its online currency, Credits, said David Kirkpatrick, the author of “The Facebook Effect.”

“Music could be a gold mine, just like games have been a gold mine,” Mr. Kirkpatrick said.

Reports of Facebook’s talks with Spotify have surfaced repeatedly on technology blogs, leading to speculation that Facebook would work with the service to create a music channel. But people with knowledge of Facebook’s strategy say the company never wanted to tie itself to a single music service, preferring instead to work with multiple partners.

Spotify, which is available in seven European countries, has been in talks with major record labels for distribution in the United States. It already has Facebook connections: Sean Parker, an early Facebook investor, is also an investor in Spotify.

Jim Butcher, a Spotify spokesman, said, “We’re continuously working together to make the social experience on Spotify the best it can be and welcome relationships with any company looking to innovate by building more social value into the user experience.”

Last year, Facebook negotiated with Apple about bringing social features into iTunes. But the talks broke down and Apple created its own social network within iTunes, called Ping. It has not become popular with users.

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Royal Wedding, Groundbreaking Coverage

PARIS — It may not be the first royal wedding of the digital era, but it is the first full-on British royal wedding of the digital era in which a potential future king of Britain will marry.

So, when Prince William weds Kate Middleton on April 29, the event will be commemorated by a series of media firsts as well.

It will be the first big British royal wedding to be streamed live on the Web. It will be the first to give birth to mobile applications. And it will be the first whose soundtrack will be released on iTunes within hours of the ceremony.

These are, of course, only a few examples of the growing media frenzy surrounding the event. For the world’s media organizations — including television giants like the BBC, cable channels like TLC and myriad digital outlets — April 29 is a red letter day. And not only because the British government has declared a public holiday for the occasion.

How was it that a young couple’s plan to tie the knot, a ritual as traditional as they come, has turned into an interactive, multimedia, multichannel, cross-platform, 24/7, user-generated, hyperlinked, search-engine-optimized, downloadable extravaganza?

Well, this is not just any young couple, and after a global economic crisis, disasters in Japan, the upheaval in the Middle East and other weighty news of recent weeks and months, media executives say the public is eager for a break.

“There’s a lot of tough and very serious stuff happening in the world right now, and we’re putting a lot of resources into covering them,” said Mark Lukasiewicz, vice president of specials and digital media in the news division of NBC, the U.S. television network. “I think audiences are also going to welcome an event like this that’s a little more about old-fashioned pomp and fun.”

Not long after Prince William and Ms. Middleton announced their engagement last November, news outlets swung into action. Newspapers like The Washington Post and Web sites like The Huffington Post quickly created special online sections — The Huffington Post declaring that “some news is so big it needs its own page.”

While the digital media have played a big role in the buildup, television will come into its own on the wedding day. ITV, the biggest commercial broadcaster in Britain, for example, will start wedding-related programming at 6 a.m. and continue until at least 4 p.m., said Cristina Nicolotti Squires, executive producer of the channel’s royal wedding program.

“The hope is that people will get up in the morning, turn on their TVs and sort of leave them on all day,” Ms. Squires said.

Only a handful of journalists will actually be allowed into Westminster Abbey in London, where the ceremony will take place, said Victoria Ribbans, a spokeswoman for the abbey.

Television coverage of the wedding will be pooled, with the BBC manning most of the cameras inside the abbey. ITN, a news provider that works with ITV, and the news channel of British Sky Broadcasting, a pay-TV company, will film along the procession route.

“The feeling is they would like to keep it to a minimum,” Ms. Ribbans said. “You could fill the abbey with the world’s press many times over, but that isn’t what it’s about.”

Broadcasters from all over the world are sending crews to London to supplement the pool coverage with the obligatory interviews of people in the cheering crowd who might once have sat in a Starbucks with someone who once lived next door to someone who once went to school with Ms. Middleton.

Despite the media hype over the wedding, live television viewership will probably fall well short of the audience for some of the most-watched television events in history, like the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, which attracted an estimated one billion live viewers, said Kevin Alavy, who analyzes television audiences at Initiative, a media buying agency.

One oft-quoted figure — that the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981 was watched by 750 million people worldwide — is “vastly overstated” he said. That number, he explained, might include people who later saw clips on the news or elsewhere. A more realistic estimate for the wedding this month would be a continuous live television audience of 100 million, he added.

“When looking at major events of this kind, it’s important not to take too Anglocentric an approach,” Mr. Alavy said. “Will it be a big event in the U.K., the U.S. and Australia? Of course. But you can’t just extrapolate that to the rest of the world. Is this going to be of interest to the average person in Russia, China or Brazil? Probably not.”

Even in places where the audience is expected to be large, the commercial opportunities will be more limited than for, say, a soccer match with comparable viewership. In Britain, for example, advertisements are banned on the BBC. And ITV plans to broadcast without ad breaks during the ceremony and some other parts of the day.

Still, some channels are optimistic about the potential business benefits. TLC, a U.S. cable network that is popular with women viewers, sees the wedding as a way to promote its recent international expansion. TLC, which is owned by Discovery Communications, plans live coverage in about 30 countries.

“This is not just a news event,” said Luis Silberwasser, executive vice president of Discovery Networks International. “We see this as a brand-defining event for TLC.”

For the royal family, criticized for its aloof response to the British public’s display of grief over Diana’s death, the wedding preparations have also been a branding exercise of sorts. While in the past the royals might have been happy to let the professional media do their thing, this time around they have set up their own, official Web site. The digital presence also includes royal wedding Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.

Most of the tweets seem to emanate from Clarence House, Prince Charles’s office, and tend toward the uncontroversial: “I think they will be a perfect match,” Prince William’s younger brother, Prince Harry, or perhaps one of his handlers, opined in a recent contribution.

The royals have also been receptive to the likes of Universal Music Group, whose Decca record label plans to release the soundtrack of the wedding ceremony, on Apple’s iTunes store and, later, on compact disc. it could be one of the rare opportunities for musicians in the choir of the Westminster Abby, the Chapel Royal Choir, the London Chamber Orchestra and the fanfare team of the Central Band of the Royal Air Force, which are all expected to perform in the ceremony, to top the pop charts. In return, Universal promised a donation to charity.

But even digital-savvy royals sometimes have to say enough is enough. That happened when they rejected a request from Sky to broadcast the wedding in 3-D. Sky had gone to great lengths to try to persuade the family of the merits of 3-D coverage, even staging and filming a mock wedding at a church near London.

Clarence House, which is handling the wedding arrangements, explained that it did not want to have to deal with the extra “footprint” that the 3-D cameras would have taken up in the abbey.

“I know you have all become increasingly enthusiastic about 3-D and I’m sorry that this will come as a disappointment,” a spokesman wrote in a letter to Sky and other broadcasters, which was quoted in the British newspaper The Guardian. “I hope you feel the process we have gone through will be helpful for other live events and of course we do not rule out facilitating 3-D at some point in the future.”

In other words, should Prince Harry, someday decide to marry, there might still room for him to be a digital media innovator, too.

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