How Much Do the Media CEOs Fighting the Strikes Make?

Bob Iger said the demands of Hollywood labor unions are unrealistic.

A collage of 8 Hollywood studio executives.
From top to bottom, left to right: Brian Roberts, Greg Peters, Bob Bakish, Andy Jassy, David Zaslav, Bob Iger, Ted Sarandos, Tim Cook Getty

Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company (DIS), came under fire over the weekend for comments he made about the writers and actors on strike and the labor unions representing them. “There’s a level of expectation that they have that is just not realistic,” Iger said during an interview with CNBC on July 13. He was at a conference in Sun Valley, the so-called billionaire’s summer camp, at the time.

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Actors and performers in the SAG-AFTRA labor union went on strike on July 14, joining the union representing Hollywood writers. The stoppage of work represents the first time the two groups have gone on strike together in 63 years. They are fighting against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), a trade association representing Hollywood Studios, over issues including wages, benefits and the use of artificial intelligence.

The entertainment industry is on the verge of massive change as streaming and artificial intelligence evolve. Iger tried to highlight the unique business pressures this creates, but critics say the multi-millionaire came off as tone-deaf and out of touch. Under Iger’s new contract, he has the ability to make $31 million annually.

The average pay for top Hollywood executives climbed 53 percent to $28 million from 2018 to 2021, while the pay for writers remained relatively stagnant, according to the Los Angeles Times. In many cases, executive pay increased again from 2021 to 2022. An executive’s total compensation breaks down into salary, bonuses and stock awards—the first two in cash.

What the CEOs of companies with memberships in AMPTP are making in the background of the strikes

Bob Iger, The Walt Disney Company

Disney’s board of directors reappointed Iger as chief executive for two years in November 2022, after he retired from the company in 2021. When Disney first announced the news, Iger had the ability to make $27 million annually as chief executive, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). His annual salary was marked as $1 million with a bonus of $1 million and stock options of $25 million. Earlier this month, the board extended his contract through 2026, and with it, the board increased his bonus opportunity to $5 million, according to another SEC document. Iger can make $31 million annually under the new terms, depending on his performance and the company’s stock price.

David Zaslav, Warner Bros. Discovery

In 2022, the Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) chief executive earned $39.3 million—made up of $3.06 million in salary, $13.5 million in stock and other awards, a performance bonus of $21.8 million and other small awards, according to a company document filed with the SEC. While Zaslav received one of the higher payouts in Hollywood last year, it was a significant decline from his 2021 earnings of $247 million, most of which came from a stock option grant awarded to him as a result of the WarnerMedia and Discovery merger. The two companies joined in April 2022, which is when Zaslav, who previously served as CEO of Discovery, became the chief executive of the much larger company.

Ted Sarandos, Netflix

Ted Sarandos, the co-chief executive alongside Greg Peters, made $50.3 million last year, up 31.7 percent from the previous year. An increase in stock options drove the surge. Sarandos’s compensation is broken down to a salary of $20 million, stock options worth $28.5 million and other compensation valued at $1.79 million. In January, Sarandos took on a bigger role at Netflix (NFLX) with the departure of founder Reed Hastings, who had previously served alongside Sarandos as co-CEO. Sarandos is expected to make $40 million in 2023.

Greg Peters, Netflix

Greg Peters, the former chief product and operating officer, stepped up as co-CEO in January. With it came an increase in earnings. Last year, Peters made $28.1 million, $16 million of which was salary. With his promotion, he will make $34.7 million in 2023, including $17.3 million in stock options and a target $14.3 million performance bonus.

Brian Roberts, Comcast

Comcast (CMCSA) oversees NBCUniversal, which operates Universal Studios. Brian Roberts, who has worked as chief executive of Comcast since 2002, made $32.1 million last year, according to a company filing. The previous year, he earned $34 million. Roberts wasn’t the highest-paid executive at Comcast in 2022, which differs from previous years.

Michael Cavanagh, chief financial officer, earned $40.5 million last year. He recently took on an expanded role at the company, adding the title of president in October. In addition to his CFO duties, he is managing teams and businesses across Comcast alongside Roberts, according to a company statement. Cavanagh took on additional responsibilities with the departure of Jeff Shell, NBCUniversal CEO, in April. He is serving as interim chief executive of the division until the company names a new head.

Bob Bakish, Paramount Global

Paramount (PARA) CEO Bob Bakish made $32 million in 2022, up 35.7 percent from the previous year but lower than his 2020 compensation. He earned five times that of the next-highest-paid executive on Paramount’s roster, according to a company filing with the SEC. The board cited his leadership “during a time of tremendous challenges and opportunities” as reason for the pay bump. Of Bakish’s $32 million, he made $3.1 million in salary, $16 million in stock options and $12.9 million in a bonus.

Tim Cook, Apple

Apple (AAPL) produces films and television shows for Apple TV+, its streaming service. Tim Cook, CEO, made $99.4 million last year, which is more than three times that of the next-highest-paid executive, company records show. While his payout is in line with what he made in 2021, it is a 573 percent increase from what Cook made in 2020. The boost resulted from Cook receiving $83 million in stock options. Of his earnings, $3 million is as salary.

Andy Jassy, Amazon

Amazon (AMZN) also has a studio that produces original content for Prime Video. The CEO made $1.3 million last year, a significant decline from years prior. In 2021, he earned $213 million, mostly in stock awards. In 2020, he made $35.8 million. Jassy wasn’t the highest-paid executive at Amazon in 2022. Douglas Herrington, CEO of Worldwide Amazon Stores, made $43.2 million, and Adam Selipsky, CEO of Amazon Web Services, made $41.1 million. Jeff Bezos, the founder and executive chairman, earned $1.68 million.

How Much Do the Media CEOs Fighting the Strikes Make?