Recruiting Tips for TV's Digital Age

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Recruiting in the digital age is challenging pay TV operators and programmers as they struggle to fill digital and technology jobs. Two recruiters specializing in the media/entertainment industry – Renee Hauch, EVP of recruiter Carlsen Resources, and Lisa Kaye, president and CEO of online jobs network -- shared their perspective on that challenge and tips on how pay TV companies can meet it with Multichannel News contributing editor Leslie Jaye Goff. An edited transcript follows.

MCN: What are the high-priority and hard-to-fill jobs in the digital and tech domains?

Lisa Kaye: Engineers, programmers, content developers who can think about new ways of what’s hot, social media marketing people. Every company needs the people who sit behind the scenes in social media, and that didn’t even exist five to eight years ago.

IT people are like accountants – you always need them. Engineers with multiple skill sets – who understand how the content is produced and can hard code – are must-haves.

I think the metrics-driven jobs -- anything in analytics, whether data analytics, programming analytics, research analytics – are very popular now. Any role that focuses on gathering data relative to viewership and usership and ownership, and any data relative to the look-and-feel of what viewers are experiencing is very hot.

Renee Hauch: Whereas analytics used to be separate, now it’s becoming more a part of lots of jobs across different departments, from finance to marketing. Companies want people who can really understand those numbers and turn that data into a new show, a new set of subscribers, a new platform.

So while there has always been a right-brain/left-brain, creative-vs. analytics approach, as the industry changes everyone is looking for people who can figure that out. They want people who have at least a general understanding of how to take information and turn it into revenue, however that may be.

MCN: In what other ways are the types of candidates and skill sets that pay TV companies need evolving?

RH: Initially we saw companies saying, “We are digital, and we only want digital experience.” Now they’re taking a step back and looking for blended skills, like a marketing specialist with knowledge of the linear world, the history of TV and digital experience. It’s happening across, sales, marketing and production; they want people who are on top of TV trends and also knows what’s working and what’s not working in digital. We’re seeing a morphing of the two.

MCN: What’s driving the digital/tech demand?

LK: Millennials are not looking at content on traditional TV anymore; they’re watching on any other device you can think of, so on the MSO side, they’re looking at how the viewer of the future will be watching content, and staying ahead of that. Also, with the onset of 4K and virtual reality – and the companies that are integrating those technologies for the B-to-C market – they’re realizing, “If we don’t get a handle on what that product is going to look like to the consumer, we’ll be behind the 8-ball as a cable provider.”

On the programmer side, networks are looking at, "What are we going to distribute, what are viewers watching and what are the platforms we need to be on?” And, “How do we manage those assets in a way that protects IT and IP and gives viewers what they want?"

RH: We still do linear programming candidate searches, but more and more of the demand is in the digital space, and that has changed how we recruit and how the companies are recruiting.

MCN: How so?

RH: Recruiting is a much bigger sales job because they have to lure people in from outside the industry and they’re competing head-to-head with the digital media companies. Finding candidates requires much more targeted outreach, and vetting them takes a lot more time. And when a prospect is really good, they have multiple companies coming after them, so we’re also seeing a lot more of a sales effort: “Let’s fly out your family, show you around, really give you time to know the company.”

MCN: What motivates the digital and tech pros to accept offers, and measured by that, what should pay TV companies do to be more competitive in the digital/tech jobs market?

RH: Sometimes a candidate’s decision comes down to money, and sometimes it’s the title, or the ability to work from home. The tech companies tend to be more flexible, whereas linear TV companies have tended toward having more set HR policies. Pay TV companies have to be flexible and see what they can give and what they can’t – it can be the scope of the job or money or the environment.

LK: Companies should be evaluating the work environment and work culture as part of the recruiting package, looking at how they are positioning not just the job and its progression, but what is this work environment going to look like when the new hire show up? Do they need an office or can they work remotely? They need to be concerned about the look-and-feel of the company and the culture inside.

I think for candidates it’s really 50% compensation and 50% who I work for and what projects I’m working on. That is equally, if not more, important than compensation for these kinds of candidates. Compensation is important but not the driving force of why they take a job – it’s about the innovation and who am I getting behind that could be the next Steve Jobs?

They go to tech startups for the ride, for the upside. Those are much more palatable drivers than bonuses and benefits. That’s a model that cable needs to get its hands around fairly quickly and, from their current cultural environment, it might not be an easy switch.

RH: I was doing a network EVP of programming search, and an OTT provider was courting the same person for a similar position with the title of “director.” The pay was similar, but the programmer had better long-term incentives. But the candidate chose the OTT provider because the environment had that energy and entrepreneurial culture.

And that’s why sometimes it’s hard to compete against the digital tech companies It comes back to the branding piece and whether it’s a brand people are passionate about.

MCN: The 2015 CTHRA Compensation Surveys show both MSOs and programmers increased salaries for key digital and tech jobs last year, and yet they still lag behind digital and tech companies in total compensation across the org chart. What else can they do to seal the deal with an in-demand candidate?

LK: Pay TV companies are lagging behind in total compensation. The digital companies’ compensation model emphasizes total compensation – including bonuses, equity, etc. – while traditional cable companies are still on an older model of focusing on higher base pay instead of variable compensation. It will be interesting to see if that affects their ability to be aggressive because they’re still in transition.

RH: The digital companies can definitely throw more money at people. Pay TV companies are sensitive to wanting to bring talent on board and make them feel well compensated, but when a new SVP is making $50,000 more a year than another who’s been there longer, that’s a problem.

One scripted programmer we worked with realized they were losing people to higher offers, so they spent for the SVP they wanted but then boosted everyone else’s salary as well, and they’ve had great retention. You have to see the value of your team because when you lose people, it costs so much to replace them.

We used to see five-figure sign-on bonuses. Recently I saw a $100,000 sign-on bonus. One company paid for a candidate to relocate and paid for their temporary housing for a year.

MCN: How do MSOs and programmers rate against each other in terms of recruiting in the digital age?

RH: We do a lot more work with programmers and, in general, the programmers have been a little better at it – the message is a little sexier on the programmer side vs. the operator side. But some of the MSOs are getting more forward-thinking. I think Bright House [Networks] has always been forward-thinking with its recruiting.

MCN: How critical is it for pay TV companies to get ahead of the digital/tech recruiting curve?

LK: There’s a lot to be said for what’s going on today with technology at the forefront, but if there’s no content to support, who cares? That’s what’s important on both the MSO and programmer sides. If the studios and cable ops can’t figure out what content works on emerging platforms, it will force the technology companies to start developing their own content for those platforms, and that would really hurt the industry. So they have to step up their game and race to the finish now.