Check Out Our New Look

Bart & Fleming: Fox-Time Warner Merger Mania Means Banker Fees And Layoffs, Not Quality

By and | Sunday July 20, 2014 @ 9:25am PDT

Bart & Fleming: Fox-Time Warner Merger Mania Means Banker Fees And Layoffs, Not QualityFlemingBartColumn_badge__140510005503Peter Bart and Mike Fleming Jr. worked together for two decades at Daily Variety. In this weekly Sunday column, two old friends get together and grind their axes on the movie business.

Bart: Like  7th grade boys staring in the mirror, corporate CEOs these days keep asking themselves, “Am I big enough?” What scares them is the prospect of becoming a takeover target, and there’s been a rush of takeover talk lately —Rupert Murdoch’s bid for Time Warner being the most dramatic. Size means safety in the corporate universe and Time Warner became vulnerable by ridding itself of Time Inc., AOL and Time Warner Cable — the latter becoming a target for Comcast. With giants like Google, Apple and Amazon looming, CEOs are scared they can’t measure up, but the folks who should really be frightened are the creatives and their audiences. Bigness means giant fees for bankers and profits for shareholders, but the impact of the monoliths is easy to read — a universe of corporate plodding, tentpoles and sequels.

Read More »

Comments (3)

U2′s Bono Bails Out Of Forbes In Sale To Hong Kong-Based Investor Group

By | Friday July 18, 2014 @ 8:17am PDT

U2′s Bono Bails Out Of Forbes In Sale To Hong Kong-Based Investor GroupThe publication will continue to produce its famous scorecards of the rich and powerful, but without the backing of U2′s Bono. A new entity, called Integrated Whale Media Investments, just bought a majority stake in Forbes Media — including the preferred shares owned by Elevation Partners, the private equity firm the singer co-founded. The new ownership group pledges to “provide capital, as well as financial and operational expertise, and intends to leverage its international relationships to strategically enlarge Forbes Media’s reach on a global scale,” it says this morning.

Forbes Media Chairman Steve Forbes hung out the for-sale sign late last year, seeking at least $400M. Today’s announcement does not disclose terms of the deal, but The New York Times reports that “a person close to the deal” says the purchase valued Forbes Media at $475M.

Elevation paid $264M in 2006 for its minority interest. The Forbes family will “retain a significant ownership stake, will stay actively involved,” the announcement says.

Steve Forbes calls the transaction “a major milestone for the company and our family.” The new owners “support our longstanding mission of championing entrepreneurship and free market capitalism.”

Comments (0)

Primetime Emmys: Full List Of Nominees

By | Thursday July 10, 2014 @ 5:53am PDT

Primetime Emmys: Full List Of NomineesThe 66th annual Primetime Emmy Awards nominations were announced this morning at the TV Academy in North Hollywood. Netflix fared well with Best Series nominations in both comedy and drama categories, with Orange Is The New Black in the former and House Of Cards in the latter. HBO fared well with noms for rookie Silicon Valley and Veep on the comedy side and Game Of Thrones and True Detective on the drama side. Both of that series’ stars, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrleson, received nods in the actor category, as did Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm. The AMC show is back in the drama race with Breaking Bad and Downton Abbey rounding out the category. On the comedy side, the top category includes reigning champ Modern Family, CBS’ The Big Bang Theory and FX’s Louie.

Here’s the full list of noms:

Outstanding Comedy Series

The Big Bang Theory
CBS • Chuck Lorre Productions, Inc. in association with Warner Bros. Television

FX Networks • Pig Newton, Inc. and FX Productions

Modern Family
ABC • Picador Productions and Steven Levitan Productions in association with 20th Century Fox Television

Orange Is The New Black
Netflix • Lionsgate Television for Netflix

Silicon Valley
HBO • HBO Entertainment in association with Judgemental Films, Alec Berg, Altschuler Krinsky works, and 3 Arts Entertainment

HBO • HBO Entertainment in association with Dundee Productions

Outstanding Drama Series

Breaking Bad
AMC • Sony Pictures Television

Downton Abbey
PBS • A Carnival Films/Masterpiece Co-Production in association with NBC Universal

Game Of Thrones
HBO • HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions

House Of Cards
Netflix • Donen/Fincher/Roth and Trigger Street Productions, Inc. in association with Media Rights Capital for Netflix

Mad Men
AMC • Lionsgate Television

True Detective
HBO • HBO Entertainment in association with Neon Black, Anonymous Content, Parliament of Owls and Passenger Read More »

Comments 27

Charlie Ergen Urges FCC To Stop Comcast From Buying Time Warner Cable

By | Wednesday July 9, 2014 @ 12:48pm PDT

Charlie Ergen Urges FCC To Stop Comcast From Buying Time Warner CableThe Dish Network chairman made his plea on Monday in meetings with all five FCC commissioners and several staffers, according to a Dish filing today. Comcast’s $45B deal for Time Warner Cable “presents serious competitive concerns for the broadband and video marketplaces and therefore should be denied,” Dish told regulators, according to its account of the talks. “There do not appear to be any conditions that would remedy the harms that would result from the merger.” Charlie Ergen said that Comcast could hobble Internet video services at three choke points: The cable company would control last-mile connection to the home and the point where content providers access Comcast’s network. In addition, it could squeeze potential rivals by devoting lots of its web capacity to special high-speed lanes for favored services. “Each choke point provides the ability for the combined company to foreclose the online video offerings of its competitors,” the filing says. Read More »

Comments (1)

Aereo Is “Over” Barry Diller Says As Court Ruling Lifts Stock Prices For CBS And Broadcasters

By | Wednesday June 25, 2014 @ 7:56am PDT

Aereo Is “Over” Barry Diller Says As Court Ruling Lifts Stock Prices For CBS And Broadcasters“We did try, but it’s over now,” Aereo investor Barry Diller told CNBC following this morning’s Supreme Court ruling that Aereo violates TV station copyrights when it streams their over-the-air signals without their permission. That has given a jolt to broadcast stocks: Sinclair Broadcasting leads the pack with shares up more than 15% But CBS is up 5.4% with E.W. Scripps +6.5% and Gannett +4.7%. The decision relieves a big concern for Wall Street: that Aereo or a service like it might endanger broadcasters’ ability to demand rising retransmission consent fees from pay TV providers.

Image (7) diller.jpg for post 715696Station owners are expected to collect $7.1B in retransmission payments in 2018, up from $3.3B last year. CBS chief Les Moonves has predicted that his company will collect at least $2B in retransmission revenues in 2020.  And the revenues could account for nearly 20% of cash flow growth this year at the major broadcast network owners — CBS, Fox, Disney, and Comcast — MoffettNathanson Research estimates.

CBS had the most at stake among Big Media companies because it has few cable channels or other businesses to offset any threat to its broadcast network and stations. The court ruling “validates CBS’ investment in expensive and high-quality programming,” Guggenheim Securities’ Michael Morris says. Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible says the decision “effectively increases broadcaster’s negotiating leverage over [cable and satellite companies] in retrans discussions, which is critical given the weaker ad market and … Read More »

Comments 21

Tech Bits: Vsauce Passes 1B Views; Vessel Launches; Singer’s New Gig

By | Tuesday June 24, 2014 @ 6:29pm PDT

Tech Bits: Vsauce Passes 1B Views; Vessel Launches; Singer’s New GigEven in the hyperventilating world of online media, 1 billion views is A Very Big Number. So accordingly, the enthusiastically geeky guys behind the three Vsauce YouTube channels were in a mood to celebrate after passing that major milestone. The three producer/hosts — Michael Stevens, Kevin Lieber and Jake Roper — presided over a panel and party at the YouTube Space L.A. on Monday night, and looked forward in a separate interview to what may be possible for the sites, which collectively have accumulated more than 12 million followers and those billion views in just about four years of short, peppy and slightly off-kilter takes on science and much else. Stevens, the original channel’s founder, says what makes all three channels distinctive is “the attitude or perspective we take, whether we’re talking black holes or chocolate cake: curious, optimistic and thinking tangentially.”
Read More »

Comments (2)

Bart & Fleming: Why Nikki Finke Won’t Be Coming Back

By and | Sunday June 22, 2014 @ 11:10am PDT

Bart & Fleming: Why Nikki Finke Won’t Be Coming BackPeter Bart and Mike Fleming Jr. worked together for two decades at Daily Variety. In this weekly Sunday column, two old friends get together and grind their axes on the movie business.

Bart: You and I have lived through a few journalistic zigs and zags in our years at Variety, and we were always candid with each other in analyzing risks and rewards. Variety was started by the Silverman family but the dynasty ran out of sizzle and sold control. Deadline was started by Nikki Finke but she never managed to create a dynasty before running out of sizzle. So the question is this: Where do you take Deadline from here?

FlemingBartColumn_badge__140510005503Fleming: I think we built something exceptional with her. That said, a few people have asked me, ‘Why, when it looked like she might come back, did she start a site that is crapping all over you?’ I might as well begin there. The testiness that existed since her acrimonious exit aside, I got it in my head that enough time had passed and I wanted her back. I leaned on Jay Penske to end arbitration proceedings to make it happen, and he did just that. Here was my thinking. I like her. Even though we never met in person during our time together at Deadline, we had a lot of fun. When she and Jay hired me from Variety, they changed my life. My only goal was to get three kids through college without having to sell my house, and that effort is looking good. Since taking over, I have been able to extend a hand to several people I grew up with at Variety, and they’ve been great hires. I wanted to do the same with Nikki. My feeling was, when you reach the top after an unprecedented climb up a mountain like she did with Deadline, what’s wrong with staying to enjoy the view? I also thought a measured dose of her fire would complement the mix Nellie Andreeva and I have now.

Bart: Seems understandable. So why are you now known on her site as Mike Pflegming? Read More »

Comments 62

What Happens To Media Stocks If Aereo Wins At The Supreme Court?

By | Thursday June 12, 2014 @ 9:13am PDT
Loading video...

At least one analyst doesn't expect many long-term implications for broadcasters if the upstart streaming service defies conventional wisdom and prevails in its Supreme Court case.

Aereo badgeShares for broadcast companies and CBS likely will take a hit if the conventional wisdom is wrong and justices uphold Aereo’s right to stream TV signals without payment, Wells Fargo Securities’ Marci Ryvicker forecasts this morning. Justices should make their decision before June 30, when the current term ends. If they agree with Aereo — which says it merely leases antennas so consumers can access free TV —  then many on Wall Street say stations will lose leverage to demand rising retransmission payments from pay TV providers. Broadcast company stocks could fall as much as 20%, and CBS could drop 7%, Ryvicker figures.

Investors shouldn’t worry: an Aereo win wouldn’t change things for the short to mid term, she says. Still, “we do acknowledge that sentiment will drive these stocks lower” referring to a group that includes TV station owners Sinclair, Media General, Nexstar, Gray Television, and Journal Communications. The broadcast companies’ shares “seemed to be somewhat ‘rocked’ by the Supreme Court’s decision to review” the Aereo case.  As for CBS, Ryvicker says investors might decide it’s just worth 12.7 times expected per share earnings — down from its current trading price at 13.7 times — which would cut the price by 7%. But “we don’t anticipate it staying there for long,” in part because “CBS can pursue its option to go straight to cable or figure out some sort of other business model that would lessen any potential long term impact of Aereo.” … Read More »

Comments (10)

Netflix Shareholders Reject Governance Changes

By | Monday June 9, 2014 @ 2:34pm PDT

netflix-logoHere’s the latest indication that it’s difficult to interest investors in corporate democracy as long as the stock price keeps rising. Following a 12-month period when Netflix shares appreciated 92%, its shareholders today defeated several proposals at their annual meeting that would have given them more leverage to Reed Hastingscheck CEO Reed Hastings‘ clout at the streaming video company. The most hotly contested one, from New York City’s pension funds, called for an independent chairman — essentially requiring Hastings to give up half of his dual role. It passed last year, but failed this time with 47% support. Supporters including proxy advisory firms Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass, Lewis say the chairman is supposed to help the board assess the CEO’s performance, making it a conflict of interests when one person holds both jobs. Netflix said in its proxy that it makes sense for Hastings to be chairman “because he is the director most familiar with the Company’s business and industry and is therefore best able to identify the strategic priorities to be discussed by the Board.”

Comments (0)

Bart & Fleming: Are Cinematic Comedy Creators Taking Themselves Too Seriously?

By and | Sunday June 8, 2014 @ 9:04am PDT

FlemingBartColumn_badge__140510005503Peter Bart and Mike Fleming Jr. worked together for two decades at Daily Variety. In this weekly Sunday column, two old friends get together and grind their axes on the movie business.

Bart: Here’s a suggestion for Adam Sandler, Seth MacFarlane and James Franco that none will appreciate: Guys, you should think about taking a sabbatical. All of you have been working too hard, trying too hard, and you’ve become predictable. Why not take a place on the sidelines for a while and think about life? I know the whole concept of “the sidelines” worries you. They’re already occupied by the likes of Eddie Murphy, Jim Carrey and Mike Myers; it’s much more fun being in the middle of the action. Even too much action.

operaFleming: Wow, that’s a buckshot blast. Those three fall into different categories. Let’s take them one at a time, starting with Sandler. I loved his Saturday Night Live character creations, from Opera Man to Canteen Boy and miss the edge he carried into his early films. I wish Adam would stop pandering to the four quadrants and challenge himself to write something less predictable. Audiences are losing interest.

Bart: My problem with Sandler, MacFarlane and others is that “raunchier” doesn’t necessarily mean “funnier”. Scatalogical humor already has been pushed over the edge this summer and we are yet to see Melissa McCarthy’s new road movie, Tammy, or the next Cameron Diaz epic, Sex Tape. By the standards of the moment, the Diaz-Ben Stiller hair gel moment in There’s Something About Mary seems like a Disney picture. The R ratings for movies like Neighbors were saved only by some eleventh-hour manipulation in the cutting room — “frame-f*cking,” it’s called, and it’s a flourishing career. Read More »

Comments 30

Ready For Media Merger Mania? An Analyst Examines Some Possibilities

By | Thursday June 5, 2014 @ 3:40pm PDT

merger acquisition handshakeThis is the time of year when deal speculation usually percolates: Moguls always have mergers on their minds as they prepare to huddle in early July at Allen & Co’s Sun Valley gathering for the media elite. And content companies have to be thinking more seriously than usual about their options. Their bargaining power could soon diminish if Washington regulators allow Comcast to buy Time Warner Cable, AT&T buy DirecTV, and — perhaps — Sprint buy T-Mobile.

What deals make sense? Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible tiptoed out on a limb today by making a serious attempt to answer the question — with some potentially surprising conclusions. Here are the ones that seem to offer the greatest strategic and financial benefits:

CBS and Viacom: A re-combination of Sumner Redstone’s companies “increases CBS’ exposure to affiliate fees, allows it to leverage sports/retrans across networks, provides studio content, and greatly increases its European ad exposure,” Wible says. The companies also could look for ways to harmonize Showtime with Epix (which Viacom owns with Lionsgate and MGM). A possible problem? It would be “a massive deal for CBS” which has a lower market value than Viacom.

Discovery and Scripps Networks: It would “greatly increase [Discovery's] share around non-scripted programming” although Scripps’ home, food, and lifestyle fare “may not export into international markets as seamlessly, which has been an important part of [Discovery's] current growth strategy.”

Disney and Discovery: Disney would gain viewers in Europe, and would especially enjoy blending ESPN … Read More »

Comments (18)

Paramount Looking To Re-Team Mark Wahlberg And Will Ferrell In ‘Daddy’s Home’

Mike Fleming

guysoEXCLUSIVE: Paramount is trying to move fast on Daddy’s Home, with talks heating for Mark Wahlberg to reteam with Will Ferrell in the Gary Sanchez-produced comedy. Horrible Bosses 2 helmer Sean Anders and John Morris are in that discussion to direct and production would begin this fall.

This is the movie that looked like it was going to happen last year with Vince Vaughn and Ferrell, and Etan Cohen directing. That version of the film fell apart, but it is fast coming back together with Wahlberg, who just did Transformers: Age Of Extinction for Paramount. He and Ferrell are an easy match; they starred together in the 2010 hit The Other Guys. Anders & Morris stepped up to direct Horrible Bosses 2 after they scripted the sleeper hit We’re The Millers. Read More »

Comments (6)

India Ennenga Joins A&E’s ‘The Returned’, Keith Powell Added To ‘The Newsroom’

By | Friday May 30, 2014 @ 8:27pm PDT

India EnnengaTreme alumna, India Ennenga, will play opposite Mark Pellegrino in Carlton Cuse’s 10-episode A&E drama series The Returned. Ennenga will portray Camille, one of the twin daughters to Pellegrino’s Jack, a rugged father who loses his girls in a school bus crash four years prior. The Returned, from A+E Studios and FremantleMedia, is an adaptation of the acclaimed French series, which focuses on a small town that is turned upside down when several local people, who have been long presumed dead suddenly reappear, bringing with them both positive and detrimental consequences. Ennenga, repped by Innovative and Invictus Entertainment, will next be seen in Sun Belt Express and Scout.

Keith Powell30 Rock alum Keith Powell has been cast on the final season of HBO’s The Newsroom in the recurring role of Wyatt Geary, the new Human Resources Vice President for AWM. Powell, repped by SMS and Leverage, had a recurring part on NBC’s About a Boy and was a series regular on 30 Rock for seven seasons.

Comments (1)

Sony Taps Nicole Seligman To Be Entertainment President

By | Friday May 30, 2014 @ 8:29am PDT

sony_logo__121101084843-200x133__130207090832__130530213852__131031103916This the latest promotion for Nicole Seligman, who has become a formidable behind-the-scenes force at Sony since she was recruited by former CEO Howard Stringer to be the company’s general counsel after she repped Oliver North in the Iran-Contra hearings and President Bill Clinton when he was impeached. In her new position she’ll directly oversee important functions at the company’s movie and music properties, reporting to Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton. She’ll continue to report to Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai in her new role as Senior Legal Counsel and as she keeps her corporate duties as President, Sony Corporation of America and as a member of Sony’s Group Executive Committee.

The company says that in her new role at Entertainment she will “develop overall strategy and growth opportunities, identify and implement efficiencies within and among [Sony Pictures, Sony Music, and the Sony/ATV Music Publishing joint venture] and expand the businesses’ combined global footprint and influence.” She’ll directly oversee finance, human resources, legal and corporate communications. “I sought out Nicole for this role and am thrilled to work with her to explore new ways to leverage Sony Entertainment’s business and creative assets into new opportunities for profitability and growth,” said Lynton.

Sony vowed to streamline the entertainment operation last year after it rejected a proposal by hedge fund owner Daniel Loeb to spin off a minority stake in the businesses. (Loeb is an investor in Variety with Deadline’s parent company, PMC.) Late last year Sony hired Bain Read More »

Comments (1)

‘Hells Angels’ Feature Rides Over To Writer-Producer Rob Weiss

By | Wednesday May 21, 2014 @ 8:46am PDT

Sonny Barger MovieEXCLUSIVE: Writer-producer Rob Weiss (Entourage) is taking over Fox 2000‘s Hells Angels feature about legendary member Sonny Barger, who has long been considered the undisputed godfather of the motorcycle club. Barger helped found the Oakland chapter in 1957 when he was only 18 and became instrumental in its rise as an international organization. Weiss will co-write with Jeff Santos and direct the story of Barger’s life, which has been a controversial one so he has a lot of material to draw on … 60 years’ worth. Weiss said he is looking to tell the story about the beginnings of Hells Angels.

robweiss3(1)“We’re approaching this as a genesis story of the motorcycle club culture,” Weiss said. “I’ve wanted to do something in the biker space for a long time.” He said they are going to focus on Barger’s entry into Hells Angels from the late 1950s and follow his story into the 1970s. He calls it “a period piece that explores the early days of the club, the philosophy of the formidable, most loyal brotherhood that started it and what drove Sonny, who had the leadership and the vision to expand the club. And he did so amid almost unsurmountable obstacles like rival clubs and law enforcement.” Weiss is drawing on the books Barger wrote himself as well as input from the Hells Angels legend. “His life is a metaphor for the wild ride that is set against a very shifting America,” Weiss said. Read More »

Comments 50

Cannes: Relativity, Bollywood’s B4U Make Wide-Ranging Joint Venture

By | Saturday May 17, 2014 @ 1:34am PDT
Mike Fleming

If there is one thing Relativity Media head Ryan Kavanaugh likes, RyanKavanaughit’s making deals. He’s hammered out a joint venture with Bollywood film and TV network B4U that, the announcement says, will leverage their combined expertise, relationships and resources to create and distribute highly engaging long and short form entertainment and sports content in India, spanning film, television and digital. The plan calls for them to co-finance, co-produce and distribute Indian-language films and television shows and acquire projects in the U.S. and Indian markets; distribute third-party content in India and select Bollywood films in the U.S.; create and launch a new pay television channel in India focused on Hollywood Relativity_newlogocontent in both English and Hindi; launch “RelaTV” – a digital streaming technology platform to deliver compelling short- and longform content to Indian consumers; and co-produce a slate of Hollywood films including the Nicholas Sparks novel adaptation The Best Of Me. There is $100 million for co-productions, they said.

Now, the track record for cross-pollination between India and Hollywood has been sketchy so far. Reliance must still be scratching their heads after backing first-look deals with top acting and directing talent and getting nothing to show for it. They’ve fared better with DreamWorks, but that company has an uncertain future, as Steven Spielberg’s partner Stacey Snider negotiates her way to a top exec job at Fox. India’s UTV made forays with stars including Will Smith and Overbrook, and M. Night Shyamalan, but they didn’t lead to much, either.

On paper, the appeal into expansion in India is a no-brainer. There is rapid urbanization, multiplex growth and content is prized. “By 2020, India is set to become the world’s youngest country, and its citizens are adopting new technology platforms – from smartphones to smart TVs – at a dramatic rate,” Kavanaugh said. “This joint venture positions us well to deliver enthralling content across rapidly emerging distribution channels.” Read More »

Comments (3)

DirecTV CEO: Content Companies May Cripple Planned Online Video Services

By | Thursday May 15, 2014 @ 7:28am PDT

Michael WhiteThere’s an Achilles Heel for the upcoming so-called over-the-top online pay TV services — including a low priced, entry level one Dish Network plans with help from Disney — DirecTV chief Michael White told an investor audience this morning. “If you make it too good you’re going to cannibalize the [conventional pay TV] business,” he said at the first MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit. ”It’s in the content companies’ interest to not make it too good.” It’s a problem because Big Media companies still control TV programming. direcTV__130523212608If an online provider could offer “AMC and FX, and not have to pay for Nickelodeon and all the other stuff [then] you might get there,” White says. “My bet is that everyone including Disney will try to bundle more stuff” in an online service, driving up the price. ”It’s a slippery slope…Can you unbundle good enough stuff?” DirecTV research shows a “sharp fall off” of consumer interest in a video service once the price exceeds $12 a month.
Read More »

Comments (5)

ABC & 20th TV Reach Deal: ‘Cristela’ & ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ Picked Up To Series, ‘Last Man Standing’ Renewed

By | Saturday May 10, 2014 @ 12:00pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

FORREST WHEELER, IAN CHEN, RANDALL PARK, HUDSON YANG, CONSTANCE WUAfter intense negotiations, ABC has closed a deal with 20th Century Fox TV for the pickup to series of two comedy pilots, multi-camera  Cristela, starring Cristela Alonzo, and Nahnatchka Khan’s single-camera Fresh Off The Boat, as well as the fourth season renewal of comedy series Last Man Standing starring Tim Allen. The holdup had been a request from the network for a license fee reduction on Last Man Standing, something 20th had already agreed last season for what was supposed to be a one-time thing and was unwilling to do it again. The studio had leverage with Cristela and Fresh Off The Boat, which ABC was looking to pick up. After some back-and-forth, a deal has been reached, with all three shows safely on ABC’s schedule next season. Both Cristela and Fresh Off the Boat reflect the immigrant experiences of their creators, Cristela Alonzo, who co-wrote the script with Kevin Hench, and Khan, who based her show on Chef Eddie Huang’s memoir. (Both Khan and Alonzo are first generation Americans.) Both Cristela and Last Men Standing hail from 21 Laps/Adelstein.

Related: ‘Last Man Standing’ And Pilots ‘Cristela’ & ‘Fresh Off The Boat’ Part Of Tense Negotiation Between ABC & 20th TV Read More »

Comments 58

Big Media Moguls With Out-Of-Whack Compensation: Exclusive Deadline List

Highest Paid Media ExecutivesHere’s a question to ask yourself if you aren’t sure whether media mogul pay reflects merit or cronyism: Did Viacom and CBS executive chairman Sumner Redstone deserve $93M, an 80% year-over-year increase, in the combined compensation he received from the companies in 2013? The answer to this query, and others like it, seems especially relevant here in Deadline’s fourth annual effort to try to make sense of the outsized sums media companies pay their leaders. They’re among the most lavishly compensated in corporate America where CEOs made 206 times what the average worker did in 2011, up from 26.5 times in 1978, economist Thomas Piketty notes in his surprise bestselling new book about growing wealth disparities. Compensation 1That strikes many as fundamentally unfair: The California legislature is weighing a bill that would raise tax rates for companies that give their CEOs more than 100 times the average pay for their workers.

Here’s our contribution to the discussion: a tally of the highest-paid executives in media, with metrics and analysis to help you decide what they’re worth. The chart on the right (click to enlarge) shows media execs whose compensation exceeded $10M in 2013 according to company proxies. Below you’ll find our in-depth look at the top 11 earners on the list. Why 11? That enables us to add Rupert Murdoch, who shouldn’t be left out of any discussion of media wealth and power. Those in this Group of 11 collectively made $448.6M in 2013, +15.6% vs 2012, with their median pay  +8.3% to $32.5M.

Out Of Whack – 2012
Out Of Whack — 2011
Out Of Whack — 2010

One of the things you’ll see is how much Redstone contributes to the high level of executive pay in media. He and other leaders at corporations he controls occupy four of the 11 spots on our list. That has a ripple effect: All companies represented here (with a caveat, discussed below, for News Corp) include Viacom and CBS in the list of peers against which they benchmark pay for their own execs. And Redstone isn’t all that unusual. You frequently see high pay at enterprises, like many in media, run by families that own little equity but control decision-making by virtue of their supervoting shares.

Boards usually justify their high outlays by pointing to metrics of company success, which they credit to the CEOs. But while those on this list are smart and shrewd, it’s worth asking how much of their good fortune — including their rising stock prices — also represents good luck. Keep in mind that all of the media powers represented by this year’s top 11 own broadcast and/or pay TV channels. Cable and satellite companies complain that these programmers have oligopoly power to raise prices on distributors. Many are aggressively doing so, which distributors say pressures them to raise your rates. Programmers also benefit from a new source of cash: license fees from digital services including Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Executive compensation payOur list and the charts that follow include Deadline’s annual Out-of-Whack analysis. It illustrates not only that CEOs make vastly more than the public. Some boards are far more generous to the top dog than they are to others in the C-suite. That could be a sign that directors are in the CEO’s pocket, or lack confidence in their executive bench, many corporate governance experts say. In any case, research shows that lopsided outlays promote groupthink, damage morale, and often depress a company’s stock price. It’s a judgement call as to how much of a disparity is too much. Yet those who track the phenomenon typically become alarmed when a CEO makes more than three times the median for the four other top execs whose income must be disclosed to shareholders per SEC rules. Eighteen of the 30 companies we monitor and that have filed information for 2013 failed the test, often miserably, up from 14 out of 31 last year. Read More »

Comments (11)
More Deadline | Hollywood »