Hollywood Executives’ Sky-High Salaries Leave Writers in Dust

A recent report from the Los Angeles Times has shed light on the vast income disparity between Hollywood executives and TV and film writers.

The analysis reveals that David Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery Inc., earned a staggering $498.9 million in the last five years, which is approximately 384 times the average pay of a Hollywood writer. Overall, the average pay for top Hollywood CEOs reached $28 million in 2021, a significant increase of 53% since 2018, while the average pay for writers has remained relatively stagnant at around $260,000.

The report highlights the challenges faced by writers in the industry, with median screenwriter pay experiencing a 14% decrease when adjusted for inflation over the last five years. The Writers Guild of America, the union representing TV and film writers, has been on strike since May 2, advocating for higher wages, streaming residuals, and greater protections in the digital era.

Kaitlin Fontana, a writer on the WGA East council, expressed frustration at the executives’ high compensation compared to the modest requests of the writers, stating, “If they gave us everything that we asked for, it would make a difference of 2% in the bottom line that the studios currently are paying. That’s a rounding error for a lot of these guys.”

Also, Luca Guadagnino reportedly suggested to Amazon that they delay the release of ‘CHALLENGERS’ due to the strikes (which are the result of studios refusing to pay actors and writers what they rightfully deserve) but no decision has been made yet.

Top Hollywood CEOs Pay

The analysis of executive compensation also reveals other top earners in the industry, including Ari Emanuel of Endeavor Group Holdings Inc., Reed Hastings of Netflix, and Bob Iger of Walt Disney Co.

  • David Zaslav, Warner Bros. Discovery Inc.: $498,915,318
  • Ari Emanuel, Endeavor Group Holdings Inc.: $346,935,367
  • Reed Hastings, Netflix: $209,780,532
  • Bob Iger, Walt Disney Co.: $195,092,460
  • Ted Sarandos, Netflix: $192,171,581
  • Rupert Murdoch, Fox Corp.: $174,929,867
  • Lachlan Murdoch, Fox Corp.: $171,359,374
  • Brian Roberts, Comcast Corp.: $170,158,088
  • Joseph Ianniello, Paramount Global: $152,793,125
  • Patrick Whitesell, Endeavor Group Holdings Inc.: $143,584,597

The majority of CEO compensation is stock-related, and the volatile stock market in 2022 has led to a decline in executive pay. To navigate economic challenges and make streaming profitable, companies such as Disney and Warner Bros. have resorted to mass layoffs.

As the strike continues, writers are hopeful for a fair resolution that addresses their demands and acknowledges their contributions to the industry. The income disparity between Hollywood executives and writers serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggles faced by those behind the scenes in the entertainment business.

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