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2020 Spencer Stuart Communication Services Sector Snapshot

Boards of communication services companies in the S&P 500 — a group of 22 companies — tend to be younger and less tenured than S&P 500 boards.

  • The average age of independent directors on communication services boards is 60.6, significantly lower than the S&P 500 average of 63.0 and the lowest of all S&P 500 primary sectors.
  • The youngest average age of a communication services board is 51.3 years and the oldest is 69.4.
  • Communication services boards average 10.4 members, slightly lower than the 10.7 director average for S&P 500 company boards.
  • Independent directors represent 80% of all directors on communication services boards, significantly lower than the 85% average for the S&P 500 universe and the lowest of all S&P 500 primary sectors.
  • The average tenure of independent directors on communication services boards is 7.2 years, below the S&P 500 average of 7.9 years and the second lowest of all S&P 500 primary sectors.
  • The longest-tenured communication services board average is 12.4 years.

Diversity

Women represent 28% of all communication services directors in 2020, equal to the 28% average of the S&P 500.

Every S&P 500 company has at least one female director. Ninety-five percent (95%) of the S&P 500 index have at least two female directors and 67% have three or more women, compared with 82% and 50%, respectively, among communications services boards.

Representation of Women Directors on Communication Services Boards

When it comes to race/ethnic diversity of the boardroom, 25% of the directors of the 12 communication services companies in the top 200 companies are minorities (defined as Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx and Asian), higher than the 20% average for the S&P 500 index and the highest percentage of all primary sectors in the top 200. The diversity breakdown of communication services boards varies from the S&P 500: 16% Black/African American (compared to 10% of S&P 500 directors); 4% Hispanic/Latinx (compared to 4% S&P 500); and 5% Asian (compared to 5% S&P 500). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 40% of the U.S. population is estimated to be a minority, including 18.5% Hispanic/Latinx, 13.4% Black/African American, 5.9% Asian.

New independent director backgrounds

Twelve communication services companies — 55% of the surveyed group — added at least one director over the past year. Appointees averaged 56.6 years of age, younger than the 57.8 average for all independent directors joining S&P 500 boards in 2020. First-time directors represented 15% of directors joining communication services boards — significantly lower than the 28% overall average for the S&P 500 and the second lowest of all S&P primary sectors.

Diverse directors comprised 55% of the 20 directors joining communication services boards over the past year; 45% are women and 10% are minority men. In comparison, 59% of directors joining the S&P 500 index are diverse, including 47% women and 12% minority men.

Compared to the S&P 500 incoming class, where 49% are actively employed, 60% of the directors joining communication boards are actively employed, the highest percentage of all S&P primary sectors. Another difference is the backgrounds of the incoming class, with communication services boards appointing the lowest percentage of CEOs of all S&P 500 primary sectors and the highest percentage of directors with chair/president/COO experience.

Seventy percent (70%) of independent directors joining communication services boards over the past year have the following backgrounds: active or retired financial executives (30%); chairs/presidents/COOs (15%); line and functional leaders (15%); and CEOs (10%).

2020 Communication Services2020 S&P 500
CEOs10%29%
Active5%13%
Retired5%16%
Chairs / presidents / COOs15%6%
Active10%3%
Retired5%3%
Line and functional leaders15%16%
Division / subsidiary presidents5%7%
Finance / accounting executives30%27%
Financial executives / CFOs / treasurers10%14%
Investment managers / investors20%8%
Bankers / investment bankers0%4%
Public accounting executives9%1%
Academics / nonprofit executives5%3%
Consultants5%3%
Legal 5%2%
General counsel0%2%
Lawyers5%0%
Others10%7%
Government / military10%5%
Others0%2%

Board leadership

Just over half (55%) of the communication services companies in the S&P 500 index separate the chair and CEO roles, equal to the 55% average for the S&P 500 index. Independent chairs are in place at only 18% of communication services companies, significantly below the 34% of the S&P 500 index and the lowest of all S&P 500 primary sectors. Seventy-seven percent (77%) of all communication services companies have an independent lead or presiding director, higher than the 73% average of the S&P 500.

Board organization and process

As detailed below, 14% of communication services companies have staggered, three-year terms for directors, the second highest percentage of all S&P 500 primary sectors. In contrast, 10% of S&P 500 companies have classified boards. While 70% of S&P 500 boards have adopted mandatory retirement policies, only 36% of communication services boards have adopted age limits for directors, the lowest percentage of all S&P 500 primary sectors.

2020 Communication Services2020 S&P 500
Classified board14%10%
Board meetings (avg #)8.67.9
Board committees (avg #)3.94.2
Audit committee
Size (avg #)3.84.4
Meetings (avg #)7.58.2
Compensation committee
Size (avg #)3.94.3
Meetings (avg #)6.35.9
Nominating / governance committee
Size (avg #)3.74.4
Meetings (avg #)4.44.5
Mandatory retirement36%70%
Retirement age (avg)7373.6

Editor's note: Data in tables and charts may not total 100% due to rounding.
 

Communication Services Sector Companies

Activision Blizzard
Alphabet
AT&T
CenturyLink
Charter Communications
Comcast Corporation
Discovery
DISH Network Corporation
Electronic Arts
Facebook
Fox Corporation
Live Nation Entertainment
Netflix
News Corporation
Omnicom Group
Take-Two Interactive Software
The Interpublic Group of Companies
The Walt Disney Company
T-Mobile US
Twitter
Verizon Communications
ViacomCBS