The year 2022 was a tumultuous one for Hollywood, as the industry faced a pandemic-induced slowdown, a wave of layoffs, a historic writers strike and a major merger that reshaped the media landscape. But for some of the top executives who steered their companies through these challenges, it was also a lucrative one.
According to regulatory filings and analysis by The Hollywood Reporter and Equilar, several Hollywood CEOs saw their paydays increase in 2022, with some joining the exclusive nine-figure club. Netflix’s Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos led the pack with $51.1 million and $50.3 million, respectively, up 25 percent and 32 percent from 2021. Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish was the biggest pay gainer on THR’s list, with a 60 percent bump to $42.8 million.
The high compensation packages were driven largely by stock awards, which are typically granted at the beginning of the year when there was less economic uncertainty. Stock awards also reflect the long-term performance and potential of the companies, which have been boosted by the streaming boom amid the pandemic.
However, the generous payouts also contrasted sharply with the cost-cutting measures that many of these companies implemented to cope with the crisis. Thousands of staffers were laid off across Hollywood, as studios and networks streamlined their operations and shifted their focus to direct-to-consumer platforms. The writers strike, which started in October and is still ongoing, also highlighted the growing pay gap between the executives and the creative talent who produce the content that fuels their businesses.
The strike, which involves more than 60,000 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA), is mainly about securing fair compensation and benefits for writers in the streaming era, where residuals and royalties are lower than in traditional media. The WGA is also demanding greater transparency and accountability from the studios and networks, especially those that are vertically integrated with streaming services.
The strike has disrupted the production and release of many shows and movies, affecting both the industry and the consumers. It has also put pressure on the executives to negotiate a deal that would end the impasse and restore normalcy to Hollywood.
As the industry enters 2023, it faces many uncertainties and opportunities. The streaming wars are heating up, with new entrants like Warner Bros. Discovery and Amazon Studios challenging the incumbents like Netflix and Disney. The pandemic is still posing health and safety risks, as well as changing consumer behavior and preferences. And the writers strike is still unresolved, with no clear end in sight.
But for some of Hollywood’s top executives, 2022 was a year to remember – at least financially.