Netflix shareholders voted Thursday to reject the lucrative pay packages of the company’s leaders, including co-CEOs Ted Sarandos and Greg Peters. The vote is nonbinding and can be overruled by the company’s board of directors the next time it meets.
But the result was notable just days after the Writers Guild of America, which represents writers taking part in a strike, sent a public letter urging the streaming giant’s shareholders to reject the compensation plans.
Sarandos’ proposed pay package for 2023 would be worth up to $40 million through a combination of base salary, a performance bonus and stock options. Peters, who was named co-CEO in January after Reed Hastings stepped down from the role, is set to receive up to $34.6 million. And Hastings, who became executive chair, is on track to earn $3 million for the year.
The shareholders voted during their annual meeting, as the guild’s strike entered its fifth week. They did not make any public comments at the brief meeting. Earlier this week, Meredith Stiehm, the president of the Western branch of the Writers Guild of America, wrote in the letter to shareholders, “While investors have long taken issue with Netflix’s executive pay, the compensation structure is even more egregious against the backdrop of the strike.”
She argued that if Netflix was willing to pay its executives such large sums, it should also be willing to pay its writers what she said they are worth, a sum she estimated to be $68 million annually. Stiehm sent a similar letter to Comcast shareholders, who will meet next week.
Netflix largely ushered in the streaming era, which upended the entertainment industry, including its compensation structures. The result has been a sharp increase in the number of TV shows and movies in production, but writers say that their wages have stagnated and that their working conditions have worsened.
Shareholders have voted against executive pay packages before. Last year, according to Netflix’s proxy statement, shareholders rejected a “Say on Pay” proposal, prompting the company to invite 26 shareholders, representing 57% of shares outstanding, to participate in additional calls to discuss executive compensation. At that time, the company had already made changes to its 2023 compensation program for its top three executives, which in part capped each one’s salary at $3 million, required a minimum of 50% of compensation to be tied to stock options and introduced a performance-based cash bonus.
Netflix declined to comment on when its board would meet to discuss the pay packages. In the meantime, the writers’ strike continues. – This article originally appeared in The New York Times.