Chief Compensation—Salaries Are Just The Starting Point

The exorbitant income of top media executives is making headlines this week. And salaries are just a starting point for financial compensation.

Performance bonuses often add to the already lucrative base salaries of many bosses. Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts and NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke scored more than $5 million each last year for positive performance. This was included in pay packages that totaled $26.9 million and $23.7 million, respectively, according to SEC filings obtained by The LA Times.

Similarly, poor performance can result in a hit to the pocketbook. Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings raked in $9.3 million in 2011, but because the company struggled through last year, his compensation for 2012 will be lower. He will maintain his $500,000 salary but have a 50 percent slash in the initial value of his stock option allowance from $3 million to $1.5 million. The Times reported on Hastings, and Sony Chief Executive Howard Stringer’s compensation cut which brought his earnings to about $4.3 million for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2011.

Retention bonuses for renewing contracts can also contribute to the bottom line. Ticketmaster Chief Executive Nathan Hubbard scored a $2 million bonus late last year from parent company Live Nation when he extended his contract through 2015. The new contract includes a 20% salary raise for 2012, up to $750,000, an additional bonus which could near the $1 million mark, and up to 200,000 shares in the company. Back in 2010 his total compensation was $5.7 million.

Think those packages are high? Here’s more from the LA Times:
CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves—$69.9 million
Discovery Communications Chief Executive David Zaslav—$52.4 million
Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman—$43 million
Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger—$31.4 million
Time Warner Inc. Chief Executive Jeffrey Bewkes—$25.9 million.

On the talent end of the spectrum, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest re-upped with the hit show this week, inking a two-year deal for $15 million per year—a 50 percent bump from his previous salary of $10 million.

In a world of haves and have-nots, the media industry is a reflection of reality. In April, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report showing annual median pay of radio and TV announcers was $27,010 in 2010.


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Sarah Skates has worked in the music business for more than a decade and is a longtime contributor to MusicRow.

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