Big media compensation revealed: From less than $100,000 to more than $100 million, here's how much executives from Fox, Netflix, News Corp., Disney, and more made in 2019

  • In quarantine, TV and movies have become more important than ever. Business Insider examined the compensation at the biggest media firms to see how they pay executives. 
  • The analysis includes executives from CEOs to CFOs to heads of human resources, legal, and content. Pay ranged from under $100,000 to more than $100 million. 
  • CEOs at the media giants made an average of $50 million each, while all executives together made an average of $20 million. Take a look at our in-depth chart and table below. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

With bars and restaurants at limited capacity, and social gatherings discouraged, movies and TV have become an important pasttime in quarantine. The media moguls behind what we watch are paid millions to lead their companies. 

The average executive at ViacommCBS, Disney, Discovery, Fox, Netflix, Comcast, and News Corp. made $20 million in 2019 total reported compensation, ranging from $483,097 to $125 million. Using compensation information disclosed in firm proxy statements, Business Insider analyzed the compensation of executives from top media firms to better understand how media giants think about pay. 

CEO compensation at media giants

We analyzed compensation data for CEOs from ViacommCBS, Disney, Discovery, Fox, Netflix, Comcast, and News Corp. Together, these seven CEOs made a sum of $350 million in 2019. 

The highest earner was Joseph Ianniello from ViacommCBS, whose compensation situation was unique in 2019 due to an $84 million payment he received as part of an employment agreement. Ianniello's total reported compensation in 2019 was $125.4 million. 

Other than Ianniello, the CEOs received compensation between $14 million and nearly $50 million. 

For all CEOs, equity awards were a large part of compensation packages. On average, equity awards (including both stock awards and option awards) made up nearly 50% of the executives compensation packages, up to 97% of total compensation for Netflix's Reed Hastings. 

Equity awards often are tied to particular performance goals. For example, News Corporation's proxy statement notes that 80% of CEO Robert Thomson's and Executive Chair Rupert Murdoch's compensation is "at risk," or not guaranteed and dependent on performance.

In the chart below, we show compensation for each CEO as it was presented in the summary compensation table in each firm's proxy statement, split out by element. The values in the chart, then, follow SEC requirements for compensation disclosure, and the actual earnings realized by executives can vary. Hold your cursor over the labels at the top to highlight the different parts of the executives' compensation, and reference the bulleted list at the end of the article for more information on each compensation element.

Other executives at these media giants earned millions

Besides the CEO, public companies are required by the SEC to disclose the compensation of the CFO and the three otherwise highest-paid individuals at the firm. Because of this, we're able to look further into each of the media giants, to see how high-level executives besides the CEO were paid. 

The executives we examined include CFOs, COOs, communications officers, contents officers, legal officers, and more. The salaries for these other executives ranged from $57,692 for ViacommCBS' chief people officer (this salary represents partial year pay) to $18,000,000 for Netflix's chief content officer. 

We've compiled this data into a searchable database below. In the table, you can click any title heading to sort (for example, you can click "Salary" to sort the table by salary from low to high, and click it again to sort from high to low). You can also search for a specific executive or company using the search bar. The table also scrolls horizontally. Navigate or scroll to the right to view all available data.  

What the terms in the table mean:

  • Salary: The salary an executive earns in a given year.
  • Stock awards/option awards: Equity awards based on achievement within a firm's long-term incentive plan. Long-term incentives are also considered "at-risk" pay. Stock and option awards are two different types of equity awards — stocks are direct equity awards, while options give the executive the right to buy shares at a specific price.
  • Bonus/NEIP: Typically cash grants for performance in the short term. Bonuses are typically one-off awards, while anything in the column titled NEIP (nonequity incentive plan) typically means the awards are granted as part of a firm's short-term incentive plan and granted in cash (hence the "nonequity" label). Short-term incentives are thought of as part of "at-risk" pay, meaning that the executive must hit goals or benchmarks to receive the award.
  • Other compensation: This number includes any value from the compensation data related to pension plans or nonqualified deferred-compensation earnings. It also includes any payments designated as "other compensation," which can include payment for things like personal or home security, employees' benefits plans, country-club fees, fees related to use of company aircraft, and even relocation expenses. 
  • Total compensation: All amounts summed. 

Disclosure: Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Business Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer, is a Netflix board member.

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