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WGA calls on Netflix, Comcast shareholders to reject ‘egregious’ exec pay packages

The WGA’s letter to Netflix shareholders highlighted disruption to series including Cobra Kai

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has called on shareholders at Netflix and Comcast to reject “egregious” executive pay packages at forthcoming shareholder meetings as the US writers’ strike rolls into its fifth week.

The letters, penned by WGA West president Meredith Stiehm, argued that approving the compensation packages would be “inappropriate” in light of the ongoing writers’ strike and “associated risks” that Netflix and Comcast execs are “creating for investors” by not bringing an end to the work stoppage.

“Shareholders should send a message to Netflix that if the company could afford to spend US$166m on executive compensation last year, it can afford to pay the estimated US$68m per year that writers are asking for in contract improvements and put an end to the disruptive strike,” said Stiehm.

In a similarly phrased letter to Comcast shareholders, she cited the US$130m Comcast spent on executive pay last year and said the WGA was asking for the equivalent of US$34m in annual contract improvements from the media giant.

Specifically, Stiehm asked Netflix and Comcast shareholders to reject the companies’ Say on Pay proposal, which calls for shareholders to approve executive compensation packages for the year.

The letter to Netflix shareholders highlighted the disruption of the WGA strike on projects including Stranger Things and Cobra Kai, arguing that disruption to the streamer’s content pipeline was “of particular concern” given the recent launch of its AVoD tier and plans to crack down on password sharing.

Stiehm said Netflix’s exec pay was “even more egregious” against the backdrop of the strike and claimed that a “delay in the writing, production and release of new content may impact Netflix’s ability to attract and retain subscribers and viewers just as the company asks customers to watch advertising and pay more for its content.”

The letter to Comcast shareholders highlighted the disruption to projects such as the Chicago franchise, Law & Order and Law & Order: SVU and claimed the impact on its fall broadcast schedule would bleed into its streaming business at Peacock.

Of course, this is not the first time the WGA has taken aim at executive pay. While it is not a central issue in the contract negotiations between the WGA and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), enormous executive pay packages have rankled writers at a time when scribes claim their craft is being devalued.

It is not only the WGA that has come out in stern opposition to the size of executive pay packages. Earlier this month, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, national executive director and chief negotiator for US actors’ union SAG-AFTRA, said compensation at the top US studios is a “vast drain on resources” and should not be overlooked in the context of the headwinds facing the industry today.

The US writers’ strike began on May 2.


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