Building Pay TV’s Workforce of the Future

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As the pay TV industry continues its digital transformation, the makeup of the workforce required to keep it going is taxing recruiting efforts, throwing programmers and distributors into a talent competition that rivals anything on reality TV.

In this competition, job-seekers are the judges and employers are the contestants vying to be given a chance. Social-media specialists, cross-platform content producers, app developers, network engineers, IT security pros, data jockeys and other in-demand candidates are in command of the buzzers in the big black chairs, and pay TV recruiters hit the stage with their acts:

Wanted:Content developer and TV fan passionate about our brand who can create short-form video, post it online, tweet it, put it on Facebook and then parse who’s engaging with it and why.

Wanted:Cloud architect and TV fan passionate about our brand who can create infrastructure required to support future TV Everywhere strategy and interface with Big Data system to parse who’s engaging with TVE apps and why.

TV businesses have an overwhelming need for an elusive candidate who has blended skills across multiple platforms in an environment where the traditional lines between users and IT, production and distribution, even digital and analog platforms, have blurred. Pay TV companies are no longer simply recruiting against each other, but against an insatiable demand for digital and tech pros across all industries, particularly the digital companies they’re increasingly competing against for eyeballs.

Networks and multichannel distributors are trying to fill the same digital and technology roles, requiring the same scarce skills, as a group of companies many simply refer to as “the Googles” — Google, Apple, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are the most commonly cited — the über-aspirational digital companies for millennials coming into the marketplace.

While pay TV’s digital transformation has been swift and impressive to industry insiders, job seekers from outside the pay TV ecosphere are harder to convince.

“There’s a perception, whether true or not, that we aren’t as far along as we should be,” Renee Hauch, executive vice president of media and entertainment industry recruiter Carlsen Resources, said. “And that has affected the recruiting.”

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Turner Sports found that an internship program originally created to give recent college grads, including student-athletes, a break into the sports media business yielded the kind of candidates it needed for wider digital initiatives.

The company designed the program in 2010 as part of its year-round partnership with the NCAA, selecting 10 recent college graduates to cover Turner’s NCAA portfolio. Six years later, the program draws 1,600 applicants, and the current class of 10 interns is working not just on content, but across product management, editorial, video production and marketing, “all with a digital focus,” Turner Sports executive vice president and general manager Matt Hong said.

“While we created the program principally as a way to help individuals break into the sports industry, something that has traditionally been tough to do, it also serves as a beneficial tool to Turner Sports to have a pool of incredible talent from which to fill permanent roles at the end of the internship year,” Hong said. About half of those who complete the program stay on with Turner Sports at the end.

Since then, Turner Sports has created a similar program to support its social media eff orts for its National Basketball Association, NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Major League Baseball, PGA and ELeague assets.


“The pay TV industry is pretty small, and people maintain tight-knit relationships,” Chris Barksdale, Scripps’s vice president of human resources, said. “When you start trying to expand beyond our industry, it’s really hard to find someone with the right amount of industry knowledge and a fresh perspective.”

Add to that the tech credentials: Barksdale said Scripps is looking for cloud architects, cybersecurity specialists for “a wholly reimagined team, starting from scratch, to run and build our security going forward,” and developers. “Put anything in front of that, and we need it,” he said, citing content, apps and software developers as examples.

“Our challenge is, we have two voices,” Barksdale said. “We have strong linear TV brands, and that is really helpful in recruiting when we find people who are passionate about those. But we also have a second voice, around technology, and that is a whole brand that I am laser-focused on creating a voice for.”

He’s crafting that voice to counter any notion that an evolving traditional-TV company can’t play in the same sandbox with the Googles: “We play with cool new technologies, and we’re innovative and competitive with Silicon Valley, with great, fulfilling jobs.”

SIDEBAR: Embracing Digital to Fill Digital Jobs

As Scripps Networks Interactive copes with the fact that it’s as much a digital/technology company as a pay TV programmer, its human resources department has one overarching mission: Connect with the right candidate at the right time.

“iOS app developers are not hanging out on LinkedIn,” Chris Barksdale, SNI’s vice president of human resources, said. “You have to go find them in a place where they’re comfortable, like a forum for a technology they trust, and speak to them there. Recruiting for digital talent is a very different proposition now, vs. five to eight years ago.”

In its quest to connect with that talent, Scripps’s HR team is embracing digital tools to fill digital jobs — “technology that connects us to the places that our target candidates are and where we have a chance to define our voice,” Barksdale said.

When you’re recruiting against Google and Netflix, you can’t lose any time. Scripps HR has streamlined the way it recruits candidates, tracks applicants and fills positions by overhauling its backend HR system and giving staff mobile front-end tools.

“All of our stuff is in one system, within the same infrastructure, and it’s all current,” Barksdale said. “I can use it on my phone, my iPad, my laptop, and on each I can do all the things I need to do as an HR manager.”

With a new infrastructure and mobility in place, Barksdale is moving on to phase two: bolting on additional digital tools to maximize recruiters’ reach and efficiency.

“As jobs become harder to fill and we shift the way we look for talent, we need our recruiters to spend more time sourcing candidates and less time on tasks,” Barksdale said.