It’s not a leading economic indicator. But Scripps Networks CEO Kenneth Lowe says that programming on his cable channel HGTV “had to be turned on its head” when the housing bubble burst a few years ago. Viewers suddenly wanted to know how to flip their house, not just how to make it beautiful. But things are changing, he hopes: “As we slowly build the housing market back, it will have a positive effect on HGTV.” So will improvements at the network’s popular show House Hunters, where ratings have softened. “Stabilization is the key word” for that show, Lowe says. That concept is important for all of Scripps’ lifestyle-focused services. When it comes to advertising, “we’re not seeing a lot of things to be concerned about, but we’re watching along with the rest of the industry,” says Lori Hickok, EVP Finance. Lowe’s upbeat, though, because he says Scripps’ channels are “the female equivalent of ESPN. They’re must-have. … The passion and connection that female viewers have for these networks is second to none.” Even among those viewers, Scripps saw a shift last year to sports programming, which Lowe says “was a little unusual.” He attributes that to the growing appeal of live shows.
Scripps Networks seemed to dash investor hopes that it might be sold when the owner of HGTV and the Food Network announced today a plan to buy back $1 billion of its stock — including $300 million from its controlling shareholder, The Edward W. Scripps Trust. Speculation about a sale grew on June 17 when the trust asked a probate court for a ruling that would have made it easier for family members to sell their shares. It would have dissolved the trust on the death of Edward W. Scripps’ last grandchild, who’s 93. Scripps’ stock price rose 5.9%, the biggest single-day jump in two years. After the company announced its stock repurchase, the share price fell 19 cents to $48.88. Scripps Networks CEO Ken Lowe says the decision “demonstrates our faith in the financial strength of our lifestyle media businesses and the company’s ability to generate strong free cash flow.”
My previous post showed that a lot of media company bigwigs have pay that’s out of whack with the other 4 top executives whom the SEC requires these corps to list. Now I want to show the flip side — CEOs that don’t set off alarm bells with corporate governance experts. Top dogs like News Corp’s Chase Carey, Comcast/NBCUniversal’s Steve Burke, Cinemark’s Alan Stock, World Wrestling Entertainment’s Kevin Dunn, Dreamworks Animation’s Jeffrey Katzenberg, Dish Network’s Charlie Ergen, Netflix’ Reed Hastings, AMC Entertainment’s Gerardo Lopez, Regal Entertainment Group’s, and National Cinemedia’s Kurt Hall make no more than 3 times as much as the average for the 4 other top executives whose compensation is listed in the annual proxy statement to shareholders. Let’s be clear: We aren’t saying that the executives below are fairly or unfairly paid. But they work at companies where the boards of directors at least seem to recognize that multiple people deserve the credit for the company’s performance:
1. Microsoft: B. Kevin Turner. Here’s an indication of how technology companies differ from most media ones: Executives in tech don’t depend so much on annual compensation. They typically own a lot of stock and profit when it appreciates. So CEO Steve Ballmer, who owns nearly 4.8% of Microsoft’s shares, is the lowest paid top executive listed in Microsoft’s proxy, with $1.4 million in compensation for the fiscal year that ended in June. Turner, the COO, …