AMA: I'm a media and entertainment analyst

Bio: I moved to US at 13. Went to a top public university and broke into investment banking at a regional firm. Went into media and entertainment at a major studio. I would most likely focus on answering media & entertainment questions: how to break in, what types of roles there are, etc.

I work in a divisional strategy position at a major studio. I see a lot of things that go on at a high-level, and there is a paradigm shift in the industry now, with an emphasis on digital growth.

Comments (34)

Mar 17, 2014

How do you feel digital growth will affect traditional forms of media & do you see any disruptive new forms of media on the horizon?

Also, what is the best way for people living in Los Angeles to break in to an industry like yours?

Can you speak to the culture of the financial side of the LA entertainment business?

Thank you for doing this!

Mar 17, 2014
jbone24:

How do you feel digital growth will affect traditional forms of media & do you see any disruptive new forms of media on the horizon?

Also, what is the best way for people living in Los Angeles to break in to an industry like yours?

Can you speak to the culture of the financial side of the LA entertainment business?

Thank you for doing this!

Digital growth is a huge deal right now, and it is already affecting traditional forms of media. Physical home entertainment is on the decline and will probably go away entirely sooner than we can embrace it (although last I checked there are still hipsters buying laser discs). The media industry is not "disruptive" in its nature; it actually is very, very reactive. They didn't take Netflix seriously until much later in the game, and despite the fact that people always claim they're disruptive in reality they really aren't. I think the coolest forms of media will be immersion: not just 3D, but the full experience: http://www.ign.com/videos/2014/01/07/oculus-hands-... for example from this year's CES was very impressive.

The best way of people living in LA to break into M&E is to know people. It is cliche to say so but it definitely is more true in this case, because so many people apply to each position (and willing to take a paycut) to work in something that seems glamorous (it isn't). I got my role when I reached out to a friend of mine to hand my resume to a recruiter, so that helped a lot.

The culture depends really on the team. Some teams are really cutthroat (corpstrat teams for all the studios are basically what you would expect a team full of bankers and consultants would be like...except they're better looking). In corporate finance it's really a melting pot. Some groups are really laid back while others are always tense because of the constant reorganization. The constant reorg ties back to firms trying constantly to squeeze the extra nickel and become more efficient, but it really hurts morale at the same time.

Mar 17, 2014

PM'd ya.

Thanks for taking the time to do this.

Mar 17, 2014

Hey, thanks for doing this.

From an entry level perspective what roles can lead into it, (ie. "portfolio analyst", etc.)

What do they look for when hiring for these positions?

Don't listen to anyone, everybody is scared.

Mar 17, 2014
baystcheese:

Hey, thanks for doing this.

From an entry level perspective what roles can lead into it, (ie. "portfolio analyst", etc.)

What do they look for when hiring for these positions?

Not sure what your first Q means. Any role can lead into a position in a studio, really, it depends on what you want to do! I know some people from banking went into production and do budgeting / accounting stuff because they really wanted to be closer to the movies! But if you are willing to do the mundane things in corporate finance they hire from all walks, with a preference for previous corp fin experience, i-banking, consulting, and accounting.

They look for people that can do the work and willing to take a paycut to work in the industry. You will make more in almost all other industries, all things equal, unless you're a BSD.

Mar 17, 2014

What types of roles are there in the media/entertainment world for graduating IB analysts. I am an incoming analyst (not in TMT coverage) that is not necessarily enthusiastic about pursuing the typical IB->PE->MBA route. I've always been a fan of TV/music/movies and would find a media/entertainment job more satisfying than working in finance. I would have went directly into that field but it seems pretty shitty for low level people and thought IB would be a good way to credential myself and break in at a higher level. Is this possible? Any advice for me?

Thank you.

    • 1
Mar 17, 2014
bfine:

What types of roles are there in the media/entertainment world for graduating IB analysts. I am an incoming analyst (not in TMT coverage) that is not necessarily enthusiastic about pursuing the typical IB->PE->MBA route. I've always been a fan of TV/music/movies and would find a media/entertainment job more satisfying than working in finance. I would have went directly into that field but it seems pretty shitty for low level people and thought IB would be a good way to credential myself and break in at a higher level. Is this possible? Any advice for me?

Thank you.

Without TMT coverage it may be a tad harder to break into the corporate strategy groups that is highly-sought after, but not undoable. They really care about what firm you work at and where you went to school as well. Do note, and people always look at me when I say this, that TV/music/movies at the end of the day is just like every other product out there, most of the time you have to shove something that people don't want down their throat. You are totally right, it is VERY shitty for level people and unless you go to MBA after 2 years you will be stuck making less than $65k a year unless you are a ultra superstar.

It is definitely doable, it's what I did but most people go into post-IB stint at either the sr financial analyst / associate / manager level, all of which are still considered lower level. I have even seen people without previous M&E experience come out of M7 MBAs to take on a sr financial analyst role just to get their foot in the door.

Just be aware that strategy positions at studios are harder to come by, and you may not be able to go into "corporate" strategy right away and have to work out of a division (home entertainment, digital strategy, deal analysis etc). Do you mind if I ask if you work out of a BB?

Mar 17, 2014

Wait, do you work at a film studio? If so I am insanely jealous, and may be passing you my resume and a few bills of varying denominations. What do you do there day-to-day? What kind of roles are there?

Best Response
Mar 17, 2014
Going Concern:

Wait, do you work at a film studio? If so I am insanely jealous, and may be passing you my resume and a few bills of varying denominations. What do you do there day-to-day? What kind of roles are there?

Ha. If you want to be technically correct, then I work at a parent company that owns a film studio. I don't work on films directly, but know people that do. Without possibly outing myself, I look at various strategies to expand our businesses and/or make more money, whether it be adding a new business line internationally or cutting down on overhead. Given that I'm not in corp strat, I don't touch the M&A / JV stuff at all.

As for what roles are available, I am going to steal something Alex Chu from MBAApply wrote in a post, answering a somewhat silly question: http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/harvard-vers...

Alex Chu:
Not sure what aspect of the industry, but a lot of b-school applicants I encounter that are interested in the industry tend to see themselves as producers, or are interested because of the so-called "creative aspect" -- and if that's the case, then no b-school, not even H/S are really a fit. In fact, an MBA can even be a bit of a liability because you will end up having to dispel long-held prejudices that MBA-types lack any imagination (i.e. your creative input will be constantly discounted simply because of the stereotypes people have about MBAs as being bean counting dullards). Having an MBA from HBS or Stanford won't change that perception: you will simply be seen as a prestigious bean counter. And that isn't too far from the truth: even though I have an MBA, I wouldn't trust the overwhelming majority of MBAs from any top b-school for any creative input.

There are essentially three kinds of jobs in the industry: performance, production, and corporate.

PERFORMANCE: actors, dancers, musicians/singers, etc. BFA or MFA programs. Julliard, Yale School of Drama, Berklee (music), The New School (The Actors Studio), Tisch (NYU), North Carolina, and so forth. And in the UK, you have schools like RADA. Most grads don't end up making a full-time living as performers, but the credential allows them to teach or set up their own vocational schools (which can make more $$$ than you may initially think).

PRODUCTION: producers, directors, editors, writers, cinematographers, grips, gaffers, colorists, production designers, costume, location scouts, and so forth. This is where film schools come in - BFA or MFA programs. Top schools are USC, NYU, UCLA, North Carolina, Florida, Columbia, Emerson, and so forth. These are generalist programs that teach students all different aspects of the production process. Typical career path of a graduate is freelancing in whatever projects they can get in whatever capacity starting as interns/assistants (most recent grads would've done a hodge podge of gigs from editing to grip to camera op to being a production assistant) - and over time, they tend to specialize based on what they keep on getting hired for and what they're good at. For VFX, you also have grads coming out of art schools.

CORPORATE: marketing, corporate finance, treasury/accounting, HR, investor relations, corp development, and so forth. These are where MBAs do get hired. The thing is, these jobs are no different than any Fortune 500 job, since you're in a corporate office environment - your job isn't to be on a film set. Your job is really no different than any other corporate job - generating reports and presentations and spreadsheets. It's a stable job, but you're pretty removed from anything creative or anything to do with production. The folks in these positions tend to be a hodgepodge of educational backgrounds: from film school to MBAs to CPAs to JDs. Again, it's in this tiny part of the industry (corporate) where you'll find MBAs. Finally, what's also in here are the agencies: traditionally many of them are lawyers since the work is highly contract driven; it's more apprenticeship driven than credentials - i.e. you have to start as a lowly assistant no matter your background and work your way up.

To be blunt, if you're really interested in the business side of entertainment, you really should aim for an MFA at a top film school - the biggest one being USC.

A lot of folks knock USC Film School for being short on substance and long on network, but that's what it's set up to be. The biggest most powerful school alumni network in the industry by far is USC. Think of USC in the entertainment industry like HBS is to the business world. It churns out a lot of grads that end up in every nook and cranny of the industry.

If you're looking to be a producer, USC has the Stark program (an MFA for aspiring producers) as well as its regular MFA. Other schools to look at are NYU and UCLA, in that order, especially if you're looking at the commercial and business side of things. If it's more about being a great director with a unique voice, I'd say NYU has that edge. Or another way to put it: USC is strongest in industry brand/contacts/production, NYU for film directing, and UCLA for writing.

The media/entertainment industry is even more driven by network, since it's project-based (so many folks make a living by freelancing from one gig to the next, with their respective guild or union providing the kinds of health/pension/fringe benefits one would normally get working as an employee at a firm). As such, you hunt for work based on referrals. And given that MBAs are virtually non-existent in many parts of the industry (and even in the corporate bubble, it's not like Wall Street, consulting or Silicon Valley where there's tons of MBAs) - you will have a minimal network to draw upon compared to those who went to film school.

Finally, if you're looking for a steady income or to become rich, don't bother working in entertainment. You will make more money in tech, Wall Street or any other industry with far less effort and uncertainty.

Mar 17, 2014

@"West Coast Analyst" Thanks for taking the time to do this. Much appreciated!

Since 2011 I have tried to find a way into film finance and have been in touch with the guys at Grosvenor Park. As you can imagine, one of the partner's advice was not to go into this business. This summer I tried to arrange something we call 'work experience' in the UK (i.e. you basically spend 2 weeks with a firm and focus on one specific project and shadow people for the rest of it - it is unpaid and solely an experience, not a formal internship). Donald Starr actually got back to me the same day and told me that they are only working out of the Santa Monica office these days. Yes, cold-emailing works - even with the big fish.

A little background on me: Graduating this summer with a BSc in Business Management from a top 15 UK university. Two European languages. 1.5 yrs of IB experience in sales and trading at a reputable boutique as well as a bulge bracket. Spent last summer in IB with a well-known tech and media boutique working on M&As and fundraises.

Current situation: Awaiting offer from the firm I interned with last summer (really just subject to head count). Got interviews lined up with a tech boutique, MACQ and potentially a final round with JEF.

Ambition: Break into film finance down the line

Observation: There is no clear route into this field. I have seen backgrounds that are purely in finance and some that are purely in the industry and also a mix.

Questions:
What is the best way to break into the industry?
All the big name stuff obviously happens in the US. Are there any reputable shops in Europe that you can think of? (Want to make sure I haven't missed any)
What fields in investment banking would be looked upon favourably (so far I have only seen people from M&A, Structured Finance and non-Infrastructure Project Finance)?
If I don't get an offer in IB for full-time, what would the second best option be? Accounting at Big4? Tax Consulting? (FYI: typical 'Financial Analyst' positions in Europe don't really exist - usually 'Financial Analyst' is synonymous with "Financial Accountant")
Do you see Entertainment Finance departments at banks lending again or are they still nowhere to be found?

Thanks

Mar 17, 2014
nauprillion:

Since 2011 I have tried to find a way into film finance and have been in touch with the guys at Grosvenor Park. As you can imagine, one of the partner's advice was not to go into this business.

He probably said that because apparently the only good film they've been involved with is The Hurt Locker, everything else they did sucks lol. Ding.

Mar 17, 2014

Hahaha yeh, could be. I would have to watch the other 400+ movies/TV productions in order to judge that though. Think it had more to do with the fact that he was in the process of leaving the firm when I was emailing him.

Mar 17, 2014
Going Concern:
nauprillion:

Since 2011 I have tried to find a way into film finance and have been in touch with the guys at Grosvenor Park. As you can imagine, one of the partner's advice was not to go into this business.

He probably said that because apparently the only good film they've been involved with is The Hurt Locker, everything else they did sucks lol. Ding.

LOL Warrior was good too!!!

Mar 17, 2014
nauprillion:

@West Coast Analyst Thanks for taking the time to do this. Much appreciated!

Since 2011 I have tried to find a way into film finance and have been in touch with the guys at Grosvenor Park. As you can imagine, one of the partner's advice was not to go into this business. This summer I tried to arrange something we call 'work experience' in the UK (i.e. you basically spend 2 weeks with a firm and focus on one specific project and shadow people for the rest of it - it is unpaid and solely an experience, not a formal internship). Donald Starr actually got back to me the same day and told me that they are only working out of the Santa Monica office these days. Yes, cold-emailing works - even with the big fish.

A little background on me: Graduating this summer with a BSc in Business Management from a top 15 UK university. Two European languages. 1.5 yrs of IB experience in sales and trading at a reputable boutique as well as a bulge bracket. Spent last summer in IB with a well-known tech and media boutique working on M&As and fundraises.

Current situation: Awaiting offer from the firm I interned with last summer (really just subject to head count). Got interviews lined up with a tech boutique, MACQ and potentially a final round with JEF.

Ambition: Break into film finance down the line

Observation: There is no clear route into this field. I have seen backgrounds that are purely in finance and some that are purely in the industry and also a mix.

Questions:

What is the best way to break into the industry?

All the big name stuff obviously happens in the US. Are there any reputable shops in Europe that you can think of? (Want to make sure I haven't missed any)

What fields in investment banking would be looked upon favourably (so far I have only seen people from M&A, Structured Finance and non-Infrastructure Project Finance)?

If I don't get an offer in IB for full-time, what would the second best option be? Accounting at Big4? Tax Consulting? (FYI: typical 'Financial Analyst' positions in Europe don't really exist - usually 'Financial Analyst' is synonymous with "Financial Accountant")

Do you see Entertainment Finance departments at banks lending again or are they still nowhere to be found?

Thanks

-Best way to break into the industry really is to network with people. It is even moreso in M&E because it is inherently a people business.
-Oh man. I really have no idea on European firms! Really sorry about that. I know the TV side in Europe a bit better, and even then it is not much. All the major studios have presence there. You actually may have a good shot at going somewhere there.
-I know some firms have M&E focus, but in addition, TMT is your next best bet in IB if you have industry focus. M&A too. Haven't seen people from structured finance / non-infrastructure PF.
-Yes accounting at big 4 is your next best bet. I see a lot of people with that background in corporate finance as well as on the production side. There really aren't entry level analysts in Europe? Tough.
-There are actually investment firms that are popping up left and right that help with film financing. I would love to work there eventually: take a look at this article: http://www.deadline.com/2013/02/media-rights-capit...

Mar 17, 2014

Thanks a lot. I actually read this article!

@"Goldman Stanley" The ones I've seen that are agency-related are EMC (Evolution Media Capital) and Raine. I have no idea what they are like in terms of rep.

Mar 17, 2014

How do you see emerging tech (wearables, Internet of Everything, etc.) impacting media/entertainment content consumption?

Proboscis

Mar 17, 2014
Proboscis:

How do you see emerging tech (wearables, Internet of Everything, etc.) impacting media/entertainment content consumption?

Emerging tech is a big deal, but as I mentioned earlier media/entertainment is generally a bit slower and on the reactive side so it may be a while before we see it in effect. I personally think wearables is a fad. I wear a decently nice watch but don't want something gadgety outside of my phone.

Internet of Everything, however, is pretttttty awesome. I just bought a chromecast and I take it everywhere I go when I travel. Just pop that baby in at the hotel and voila. We are consuming so much media at a breakneck pace that it is making everything outside of live sports events an uncertainty for the content makers (does that make sense?) Everyone is scared shitless at the moment because of how fast things are moving nowadays. I haven't mentioned this because people seem to be more interested in the film side of the business, but the prospect of unbundling has me excited. I think that's what IOE can do for us eventually, cutting down the middle man. But...with all the $ the cable providers have it may be a long time until that happens...

Mar 17, 2014

sorry guys I'm late! will get to the answers now.

Mar 17, 2014

What are some of the best media & entertainment IB firms in LA?

Mar 17, 2014
Goldman Stanley:

What are some of the best media & entertainment IB firms in LA?

Allen & Co. is the name of the game in M&E, but they're headquartered in NY. All the IB firms have some presence in M&E, and even more boutiques with a focus. I frankly have not dealt with them enough to answer this!

Mar 17, 2014

West Coast Analyst, thanks for doing this, it's very insightful!!! Definitely giving me a different viewpoint in my career path!!

Mar 17, 2014
Ocralph714:

West Coast Analyst, thanks for doing this, it's very insightful!!! Definitely giving me a different viewpoint in my career path!!

No problem dude. Just let me know if you have questions! I am also answering PMs as well. I will edit them slightly and post the answers here shortly.

Mar 17, 2014

Got a PM about whether to do banking vs. going through entry level and work your way up. My answer (and link to one of the most helpful threads in WSO history):

I truly believe that if you can survive at least 1~2 years in banking you should absolutely do so. You start out at a much higher base salary and chances are a way higher level. One year in banking/consulting is equivalent to 2 years (if not more) in corporate at the junior level in my experience. BUT it really, really depends on you personally. If you hate banking's lifestyle and hours, you would be much happier starting at the bottom.

Networking is super important in corporate. Have you read this thread? http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/the-other-ro... He started out from entry-level in corporate development, bypassing the 2 years in banking and he seems to be doing extremely well. I think those cases are rare and hard to come by BUT if you can get to that level I say by all means go for it!

Mar 18, 2014

Thanks for doing this. Some questions:

1. Would you forego an MBA from say Kellogg / Columbia in favor of an MBA from USC / UCLA if your end-goal is to work in Corporate Strategy for a major entertainment studio in LA? I believe this strategy falls in line with your emphasis on networking.

2. How difficult is it to attain a Corporate Strategy position in M&E from a top MBA program? As a baseline, is it more or less difficult than attaining an Associate position at a BB? Is it more or less difficult than attaining a Consulting position at MBB?

3. Could you give some brief background regarding post-MBA compensation and annual salary growth? If entry level salaries are low, are there significant opportunities in terms of advancement? What might a Director-level employee in Finance / Strategy at Disney earn?

Thanks.

Mar 18, 2014
SlikRick:

Thanks for doing this. Some questions:

1. Would you forego an MBA from say Kellogg / Columbia in favor of an MBA from USC / UCLA if your end-goal is to work in Corporate Strategy for a major entertainment studio in LA? I believe this strategy falls in line with your emphasis on networking.

2. How difficult is it to attain a Corporate Strategy position in M&E from a top MBA program? As a baseline, is it more or less difficult than attaining an Associate position at a BB? Is it more or less difficult than attaining a Consulting position at MBB?

3. Could you give some brief background regarding post-MBA compensation and annual salary growth? If entry level salaries are low, are there significant opportunities in terms of advancement? What might a Director-level employee in Finance / Strategy at Disney earn?

Thanks.

1 & 2. just to reiterate, I am not in corpstrat (i'm in one of the divisions). I will potentially face the same issue soon. I was accepted at UCLA/USC and waitlisted at a school on the same level as Kellogg/Columbia, but already decided to go to the better school should I get in. Columbia does have an edge over the other schools in M7 outside of HSW because of its location and network.

I totally agree with networking being important. HOWEVER, in corporate strategy brand is pretty much the end game (unless you have something unique story, or if you know someone REALLLY high up that can vouch for you). In fact, I think the "worst" MBA that someone has on the corporate strategy team at Disney is from Sloan / Booth, and both of them have either MBB or LEK-tier level of consulting on their resume. If you are okay with being in divisional strategy (say, music label BD and strategy or home entertainment BD and strategy), then branding does matter but network matters somewhat more.

In my experience, it is way harder to get a corp strat associate role in M&E than in IB associate position. It's not necessarily more difficult in terms of technical skills, but it is due to the fact that there just aren't that many positions available. If you can somehow find your way into a summer internship, then you have the inside track to what amounts to one to two associate positions each year in corpstrat. If you spend a year or two in banking / management consulting then you will have a bit better luck transitioning over as a manager. Again, it still depends on availability / headcount. Outside of the annual 1~2 associate hires everything else is off-cycle. So it's not "harder", it's just the sheer number of spots available.

3. I'm not post-MBA, but have heard #s usually hover around $90-$120k with $10k sign-on bonus. Annual bonus is shit, if you even qualify for bonuses (true story). Post-MBAs are hired as associate, and move up to manager/sr manager -> director/executive director -> VP -> SVP -> EVP. I think director levels make $200k in salary+bonus plus stocks. Again, just a very educated guess with some datapoints.

Re: advancement opportunities: if you start out in corp strategy you will have basically any opportunity you want across the company (I mean you're not jumping from associate to VP, but everything else is fair game). I don't think that's an exaggeration. Finance is a bit different than strategy at a company like Disney/WB/NBCU/Fox, they do intertwine but finance is more forecasting, budgeting, and what not. Trajectory is a bit different but pay is not that far off from one another because there is internal benchmarking.

Hope this answers your questions. You hit on some important themes about working in M&E (low pay, lack of opportunities) and another thing I would mention is the politics, just like any other big corporations.

Mar 18, 2014
Jamshad:

Thanks for doing this AMA West Coast Analyst. Been wanting to see how to break in to M&E Finance but never knew where to start! With this I had two questions:

1) Where's the best place to start to attempt to break into media and entertainment finance if you aren't currently located in California/LA/Entertainment heavy city (Currently in Texas now - its all oil and energy here!)

2) I will be working in corporate finance in Aerospace/Defense. With you being in IB and moving to M&E it's obviously possible for that transition to happen, but what about CorpFin in another industry to Entertainment CorpFin?

Thanks again!

Linkedin is very, very helpful. ALL the major studios have recruiters scouring them 24/7. But you better have a good story on 1) why M&E 2) why that studio in particular 3) why do you want to move. It is really hard. I read something someone said about getting an MBA. You use an MBA to pivot yourself in terms of 1) industry, 2) function, 3) location. If you can do 1, you are good; 2, great; 3, you are freaking golden. And that's with people pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars and a couple of years of their time. My old boss did just that at a M7 and got into it, and it was tough.

You are pivoting 2 out of 3, so you have to be willing to put in the work, including flying out on a whim's notice to interview. Not trying to pour cold water on ya, but it's the reality. Some recruiters will write you off just for not being in CA. If you are truly serious, move out here and scour a job then. I was in IB in SoCal so it was a tad easier for me :) Corpfin in another industry to entertainment is definitely doable, but you need to put in the footwork.

Mar 18, 2014

The "suits" side of the entertainment business is contract-intensive, so it tends to be dominated by people with legal backgrounds and/or talent agency backgrounds. They tend to dominate over pure MBA/finance types. So if M&E is the field you want, consider adding those two other arrows to your quiver.

As for Europe, obviously, Canal +.

Mar 18, 2014

Yep totally right. MBA-types are pretty much what you call "back office" employees in finance, unless you have relationships with advertisers or some sort of big media buyers then you are a salesman.

Mar 21, 2014

any "adult entertainment" M&A? live management presentations?

Mar 22, 2014

This is a very interesting post--thanks for sharing! I'm interviewing this week with DirecTV for a financial analyst position with the director of finance, specifically overseeing the company's operations in Latin America. Mostly helping with budget forecasts and the quarterly and monthly reports to the CFO. Seems like a great opportunity to me, but was wondering how you pitched yourself as interested in working for a media company versus an IBank. Thanks!

Apr 1, 2014

what does comp look like for someone that comes out of 2-3 years of IB into a sr. analyst / manager role in a strategy group at a large production company? (paramount, 21st century fox, etc.?)

Apr 2, 2014

Thanks for making this thread, man. Extremely helpful.

What was your answer to the "why do you want to work here?" question?

It's obvious that entertainment interests nearly everyone on a personal level. We watch TV shows. We watch films. Merely saying that you enjoy consuming entertainment doesn't differentiate you from every other kid with a banking/consulting background gunning for the same corporate development or strategy position. So I'm curious as to what your story was.

Also, any insight on how certain studios differentiate themselves on dealmaking strategy? Warner Bros. and Disney seem to be believers in the YouTube MCN space. I talked with a guy in corporate development at Fox who said Fox doesn't see the value in it.

Sep 8, 2017
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