David Zaslav at the 96th Academy Awards

Amid Warner Bros. Discovery’s Struggles, CEO David Zaslav’s Salary Tops Nearly $50 Million

While 2023 was a turbulent year for Warner Bros. Discovery where the studio faced losses, layoffs, and drastic cost-cutting measures, embattled CEO David Zaslav ended the year with a salary of almost $50 million.

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Zaslav’s salary is so enormous that it surpassed Disney CEO Bob Iger’s salary by almost $20 million. Zaslav also received a substantial raise of over 25% from the previous year. The surge in his salary is quite perplexing, as most have seen his influence on the studio as quite a negative one. After all, he was among the major Hollywood executives who refused to adequately compensate writers and actors, leading to a prolonged dual labor strike last summer that cost the industry billions. Since he became CEO, the studio has undergone aggressive cost-cutting measures, including canceling countless streaming shows, commencing mass layoffs, and, most infamously, shelving wholly completed films for tax write-offs.

The studio enacted multiple rounds of layoffs from 2022 – 2023, impacting numerous divisions. It also began a content purge in 2022, which saw dozens of shows and movies canceled and deleted from HBO Max’s library. However, what caused the most outrage was Zaslav’s decision to shelve Batgirl, Scoob! Holiday Haunt and Coyote vs. Acme, canceling completed films just so the studio could claim a tax write-off. While the status of Coyote vs. Acme remains uncertain after vocal backlash, it’s likely all three movies were permanently scrapped. These moves are insulting to the work of countless cast and crew members and to the audiences campaigning for these films’ release. The studio also faced an antitrust probe, further tarnishing its reputation.

Yet for some reason, Zaslav’s salary does not reflect any of these struggles.

David Zaslav’s ridiculous salary draws scrutiny

As reported by The New York Times, according to a filing for the Securities and Exchange Commission, Zaslav’s salary for 2023 was a whopping $49.7 million, reflecting an increase of 26% from 2022. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. Discovery reported a net loss of $3.13 billion last year and a 12% decrease in studio revenue. However, the studio’s losses in 2023 were lower than the losses in 2022, and it successfully improved its free cash flow. In fact, the free cash flow success is part of the reason why Zaslav received a $22 million cash bonus on top of his base salary of $3 million and stock awards valued at $23.1 million.

While the studio improved in some areas, that doesn’t mean it was a good year for Warner Bros. Discovery, which still came away at a loss. And Zaslav wasn’t the only one who got a raise. As reported by Variety, all of the studio’s senior execs received double-digit raises, with their salaries coming in at tens of millions of dollars each. This news is a reminder that the pay disparity between CEOs and employees is only getting wider. It’s estimated that the average CEO pay ratio to that of an average employee is a shocking 399 to 1. Despite these enormous salaries, all of the Hollywood CEOS, from Zaslav to Iger to Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, dragged their feet for months before ending the strike last summer and tried to act as if workers’ demand for a livable wage was more ridiculous and unreasonable than their own $50 million salaries.

Zaslav quickly started trending on X as many expressed outrage over his salary. It’s quite bizarre that employees often face stagnated salaries and layoffs when a company struggles, but the CEO somehow walks away with a 26% raise. End-stage capitalism at its finest.

It’s important to remember Zaslav’s $50 million salary when Warner Bros. Discovery inevitably starts eyeing more layoffs and rejecting salary raises for employees. These companies always claim that it’s simply not possible to pay livable wages or to avoid layoffs, but one must remember that these things very likely could be possible if only the greed of Hollywood execs were kept somewhat in check.

(featured image: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.