Among captains of industry, entertainment executives continue to reap some of the biggest rewards when it comes to compensation.
The biggest pay day so far went to
The lucrative compensation packages come at an increasingly troubled time in the media industry. Media companies are struggling to adapt to changes brought on by digital competitors such as Netflix, which is attracting consumers who once spent the bulk of their free time watching traditional TV channels.
Zaslav is not the only media executive with handsome rewards.
Moonves' compensation, which included a $25-million bonus, represented a nearly 15% decline from 2013. Moonves' pay package had been shooting up along with the value of CBS stock — but the company's shares lost ground last year as Wall Street fretted about the industry trends of audience fragmentation and the proliferation of online streaming services.
CBS shares closed up 40 cents Friday at $61.60. The stock has declined 8% during the last year. Discovery's stock is down much more: 23% during the last 12 months. Discovery shares closed down 17 cents at $33.04 on Friday.
Charles Elson, director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware, said that sky-high executive compensation packages for media executives is just a symptom of a larger problem. Many of the companies have two classes of stock — voting and nonvoting shares — which reduces ordinary shareholders to bystanders with no influence.
"Investors in media companies really don't have a voice like they do in other companies," Elson said Friday. "That's why you see all of these high salaries in media. The whole thing is a toxic cocktail for investors."
Murdoch's fiscal 2014 compensation was $29.2 million.
Sumner Redstone, the executive chairman of CBS and Viacom, controls 79% of the vote at his two companies.
Redstone will be 92 next month and he rarely comes into the office. Still, the mogul draws a salary and compensation from both his companies. For his role at CBS, Redstone was paid $10 million in 2014. He picked up an additional $13.2-million package that year from his position at Viacom.
Viacom Chief Executive
Dauman's salary was up 19% despite the company's shares dropping nearly 12% during that fiscal year. Viacom is grappling with lower ratings at its key networks, including
Comcast, which also released its proxy Friday, is another media company with two classes of stock.
The Philadelphia cable television and Internet service giant is managed by
One of Roberts' key lieutenants, NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke, received compensation in 2014 that reached $33.9 million — an increase of 9% over the previous year. Burke has been running NBCUniversal, a wholly owned subsidiary of Comcast, for the last four years.
Executive compensation experts long have attributed the outsized compensation in media to the "Judge Judy" effect. The TV judge, whose syndicated daytime show is distributed by CBS, is paid about $45 million a year. Company CEOs do not want to see their compensation dip below hers.
As for Discovery's Zaslav, the bulk of his compensation came from stock awards and options that vest over several years. Zaslav received the awards when he signed a new contract in early 2014 to remain at the helm of the Silver Spring, Md., cable television programming company that he has led since 2007.
Not all media companies have dual classes of stock.
Nonetheless, their compensation is measured relative to other companies in their peer group, and so their pay is often in the same ballpark. Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger made $46.5 million in compensation last year.
"A rising sea floats all the media executive compensation boats," Elson said.