TV Sales: A Strong Compensation Profession?


The Spring 2020 edition of the Radio + Television Business Report magazine is officially available via PDF to all subscribers, and in it are the exclusive findings of a survey conducted by RBR+TVBR and Media Staffing Network.

To learn how the 2020 TV Sales Compensation Study was produced, Laurie Kahn, CEO of Media Staffing Network, offered this behind-the-scenes look at how it gathered the eye-catching results.

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Kahn says, “To develop the TV Sales Compensation Study, Media Staffing Network and RBR+TVBR partnered on a survey to gather information from across the industry to give us a good look at the trends in broadcast television.”

From the time the survey for the 2020 TV Sales Compensation Study was conducted and now, much has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While unemployment has soared, the stats seem to indicate that many employees will return to work as businesses reopen. This makes it difficult to pinpoint an accurate figure, Kahn says. “What will remain constant is the need for quality media sellers, now and in the future, but perhaps with different skill sets,” she notes.

This was RBR+TVBR and Media Staffing Network’s first compensation study in TV.

“We were very pleased to hear from 33 different companies in 44 different markets, giving us a good representation of the industry from all size markets and groups,” she says. “As we continue to study compensation trends for media sellers, we will be able to track changes, in addition to examining how different media stack up against each other.”


A good portion of TV sales teams include Baby Boomers. They are going to retire, at some point in the next decade.

“That means stations will need to hire more from the younger generations, and if you want to attract, hire, and retain them, it will be crucial to offer competitive compensation plans,” Kahn notes. “More attention needs to be paid to offering new hires a secure package to encourage someone to accept a new position.”

Kahn examined some of the responses and determined how that affects the media business.

Respondents shared that more than 20% of high billers at their stations are earning over $200,000, with the second-highest coming in between $110,000 and $149,000, with only 7% sharing that their high billers are earning between $40,000 and $59,000.

This can be reflective of the variety of market sizes reporting, Kahn explains. However, when she looks at the average earnings of sellers, it shows a different story.

“Some 44% of sellers earn an average of $60,000 to $79,000 with the second highest average pay at $80,000 to $110,000, while only 10% of average comp for stations is $150,000+,” she says. “According to these figures, television does pay higher than radio as their average sellers highest category is $40,000 to $59,000.”

One of the areas of concern seen in television is the low amount of companies offering a secure period for new hires.

“Only 23% are offering new hires a full year guarantee of income while 32% still only offer a 90-day guarantee,” Kahn says. “Again, for those companies struggling to hire this does not make an attractive offer when trying to bring on sellers at any level.”

However, the study found that more television employers, 41%, are paying a combination of base salary and commission while 57% remain at 100% commission for established sellers. Television was an early adapter to the base-plus-commission model, which is more attractive when attracting and retaining staff.

Television appears to have more companies offering compensation for established sellers solely based on generated revenue — 72% do not offer or consider any measurable objectives in their comp plans. Comparatively, radio sees 58% judged only on revenue.

Interestingly, 89% of all respondents state that they have one team selling all products. This compares to 11% who say they have separate digital teams.

“My forecast is that stations will continue to grow the amount of ‘one team selling all products’ as more digital savvy employees join their sales teams,” Kahn predicts.

The majority of stations reporting share that they have either 5-8 sellers (44%) or 9+ sellers (44%) while only 23% employ one to four sellers.

Television companies seem to pay more on billings versus collections, while radio still has a high amount of stations paying on collections.

“Overall, it appears we do see broadcasters offering more secure compensation plans than in the past,” Kahn concludes. “As managers will need to fill open seats, more often than not with prospects coming from outside the broadcast industry, owners will find that to be competitive, it will be important to offer new hires a longer security period, with measurable objectives to track how they are improving and how likely it is that they have the needed skills and habits for success.”

To review the entire study, please click here.