Amid America’s Deep Pandemic Downturn, Many of Hollywood’s Top Executives Saw Pay Rise

Co-founder and director of Netflix Reed Hastings delivers a speech as he inaugurates the new offices of Netflix France, in Paris on January 17, 2020. - Hastings announced some 20 French projects by Netflix on January 17, 2020. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP) (Photo by CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP via Getty …
CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP via Getty Images

While many Americans lost jobs and income, were evicted from their homes, shuttered their businesses (many forever), and turned away workers and patrons, a majority of Hollywood’s elite executives and CEOs enjoyed a pay hike during the pandemic.

The pandemic slammed many average Americans, striking them hard in the wallet. Many actors and certainly Hollywood crew members also lost income. But it appears that many of Hollywood’s top executives did not suffer the same consequences, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The Hollywood trade outlet reports, “a vast majority came in above the median $15.5 million pay seen in the Equilar 100.”

“We saw CEO pay at the largest U.S. companies decline slightly, by 1.6 percent, in 2020,” said Amit Batish, director of content at data firm Equilar. “During the pandemic, most executives took pay reductions in the form of salary and bonus cuts,” which allowed firms to “conserve immediate cash.” But “long-term stock awards remained intact for the most part.”

The report noted that many of these CEOs found bumps because of the influx of new subscribers for streaming services. However, some have realized “higher performance, such as Netflix, which saw a large spike in subscriptions at the start of the pandemic,” the report noted.

The report tends to undermine the brave face many Hollywood executives put on early in the pandemic last year when they claimed to have cut their salaries in the face of the emergency. Because many of these executives earn much of their compensation from non-salary sources, they didn’t take a massive income decline during the pandemic despite their very public announcements of cutting back their pay.

The Reporter also added that the pay gap between these executives and average Hollywood employees is vast. The gap is 565 times the size of the median employee’s earnings.

The Hollywood Reporter added that Disney executives, including Executive chairman Bob Iger and Bob Chapek, did agree to forgo half their salary through most of last year. AT&T CEO John Stankey also refused 50 percent of his target bonus and salary.

On the other hand, ViacomCBS, Paramount+, and Netflix executives did not slash their pay. ViacomCBS president Bob Bakish, for instance, received a $19.7 million bonus, 60 percent above his target. And Netflix CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos made a combined $82 million last year.

The report also found that the biggest paycheck went to WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, who raked in $52 million last year with a stock award worth $48 million.

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