Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav Gets a Big Pay Bump Despite Being Bad at His Job

Typically, when a person isn’t performing well at their job, they get put under review or get a stern talking to. Well, unless you’re a top executive, that is. Then you might get a 25 percent raise, as the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery just did.

Yes, David Zaslav, currently the top executive of the influential media and streaming company, recently enjoyed an approximately $50 million payday, which represents a significant raise from what he received the previous year. The details of Zaslav’s payday were included in this year’s proxy filing, which is a federally mandated disclosure that the company must make to the SEC. The disclosure shows that Zaslav made $49.7 million in 2023 via a combination of salary, stock rewards, and a variety of other compensation packages.

The Wrap notes that 2023’s pay represents a 26.5 percent increase over the preceding year. According to last year’s proxy filing, Zaslav made a total of $39.2 million in 2022. Recent payouts pale in comparison to 2021, however, when Zaslav technically made $246 million from stock options appended to a new, multi-year employment contract with the company.

One could argue that Zaslav doesn’t really deserve this kind of money. For one thing, $50 million is just a lot to give any single human being. In fact, you could argue that it’s too much. For another thing, Warner Bros. Discovery hasn’t been doing particularly well lately, which means that Zaslav is getting rewarded for leading a company that’s losing money. Variety notes:

…in 2023 Warner Bros. Discovery’s linear TV and advertising businesses shrank and its studio revenue dropped 12%, while its direct-to-consumer streaming division eked out a nominal profit for 2023. The company reported full-year 2023 revenue of $41.3 billion, down 4% on a pro-forma basis, and a net loss of $3.13 billion (versus $5.36 billion on a pro-forma basis in 2022). Warner Bros. Discovery’s stock has languished since the April 2022 merger, and is down 29% year to date in 2024.

Zaslav has been criticized for a number of different decisions he’s made since taking over the company in 2022. Zaslav assumed power immediately after the merger between the two companies and began cutting expenses and projects, overseeing a large number of layoffs. He has been blamed for killing numerous projects before they could be released and for renaming HBO Max just Max. In February, the company’s Q4 results showed “weak linear advertising and a struggling studio,” Deadline reported.

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