Discovery CEO David Zaslav's Pay Drops to $45.8 Million in 2019

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Discovery CEO David Zaslav

The media giant’s boss had made $129.4 million in 2018, when stock option awards and other performance-based incentives tied to a new contract boosted his compensation.

Discovery Inc. president and CEO David Zaslav's 2019 pay package dropped to $45.8 million. That was down from $129.4 million in 2018, which had marked a 207 percent jump compared with $42.2 million in 2017.

The company on Wednesday disclosed the compensation for Zaslav and other top executives in a regulatory filing.

In 2018, Zaslav's stock option awards and other performance-based incentives tied to a new contract that will keep him at the company through 2023 had been the main driver for the big leap in his overall compensation.

Discovery's 2019 revenue increased 6 percent, and adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization rose 12 percent. The company's shares ended 2019 up 32.3 percent, outperforming its direct peers. Discovery also reported more than $3.1 billion in free cash flow, exceeding its guidance for the metric that Wall Street analysts have spent more time focusing on, including amid the coronavirus pandemic.

After selling his remaining stake in Lionsgate, billionaire investor and media mogul John Malone in November acquired more stock of Discovery in what is believed to be his largest or one of his largest open-market purchases of the stock ever.

Zaslav was recently asked if Discovery needs to become part of a bigger media company amid the streaming wars. "There is a very good argument that we are fine," he replied, adding, "we couldn't be much bigger" in terms of non-scripted content. "But at the same time, every one of those bigger players doesn't have enough content, every one of them has come to us and said you have a huge library in women, a huge library in family, your content library itself is bigger than Netflix as a whole, we need more bulk, we need more great characters ... so we have had discussions about doing things with others."

Added Zaslav, "But in the end, we came to the conclusion that we may have enough to go ourselves. And if we are going to go with someone else, they really need to buy us. Because if we gave our content to somebody else to fill out one of the other big players, then we would be giving away really the future of our company."

Discovery also said Wednesday that it would hold its annual meeting online due to the coronavirus pandemic. The meeting is scheduled for June 18.