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The Obscene Pay of Viacom Execs

Sumner Redstone, Philippe Dauman and Tom Dooley
Sumner Redstone, Philippe Dauman and Tom Dooley

Viacom, the media conglomerate that owns Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, Spike TV, and other animation-producing divisions, as well as Paramount, which is releasing Rango this year, pays its top executives ridiculous amounts of money, according to the company’s latest Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Its three top execs took home $164.2 million last year in the form of salaries, stock options and awards. Here’s the breakdown:

Philippe Dauman, chief executive: $84.5 million
Tom Dooley, chief operating officer: $64.7 million
Sumner Redstone, chairman/controlling shareholder: $15 million

“Those are amazing numbers,” Charles Elson, director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware, told the LA Times. “Those are entrepreneurial returns for a managerial role. I’ll be interested to see what the investors think.”

Look at it this way. According to this internal memo, Viacom reduced its staff to 11,350 people in late 2008. Using that figure, these three guys earned the equivalent of $14,466 for each of the company’s 10,000 plus employees. Or another way to think about it: they could have given every Viacom employee a $5,000 bonus last year and still split over $100 million between the three of them. But they would never consider doing anything like that. These mofos are the personification of greed, plain and simple.

And what is it that they do exactly? One can only imagine how difficult it must be for Messrs. Dauman and Dooley to decide how many new episodes of SpongeBob and Jersey Shore to greenlight. Even if these guys were curing cancer and eliminating hunger in the developing world while manning a space mission to Mars, I frankly don’t see how this type of payday could be justified. As it is, being responsible for running a shitty media conglomerate that produces volumes of crass, here-today-gone-tomorrow junk, the only words that come to mind for their compensation packages are obscene and disgusting.

  • John

    Wow. I’m used to these numbers in OPENING DAY BOX OFFICE EARNINGS!!! But not ANNUAL SALARIES!!! That’s insane and ridiculous and I’m just appalled.

  • chipper

    And here I am sucking too much to even get a retail job.

  • Karl Hungus

    I could not agree more with your take on this. Its a perfectly worded summation. Bravo.

    (And I’m a Republican for the most part)

    • amid

      Karl – To me, this is not really even a political issue. Regardless of which way we swing at the polling booth, I think most of us can agree that too many corporate figureheads behave irresponsibly at the expense of their employees and customers.

      • Karl Hungus

        I get an extra sting from this story as I’m currently slaving away at an animated show for MTV that is so grossly underfunded, the entire staff is working unpaid overtime to get it done. For those clowns.

      • m(_ _)m

        Greed is the foundation of capitalism. This is literally just a rant about capitalism.

      • Karl Hungus

        I think you are going to find that greed is insidious and has just as prominent and damaging a role in every other “ism”.

      • Mike

        “A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself.”

        —Ferris Bueller

      • dbenson

        Capitalism means you take the risks and/or do the work, you get the money. These guys are managers — presumably very capable managers, but none of them is staking his personal fortune on “Rango”, or making any significant contribution to the product itself (except, perhaps, by butting out). And it boggles the mind to think any of these guys is adding value on the level of Walt Disney. or even Michael Eisner & Frank Wells (who sure as heck increased financial value).

        Capitalism is also about the market dictating prices. Viacom should cut his salary until it reaches a point where they can’t find a hungrier, equally capable executive to replace him. And then knock off another 10% because it’s tough out there.

    • Ryoku

      Why not go on strike?

  • I’d be quite prepared to accept an obscene and disgusting wage.

  • Geneva

    Ugh, I don’t get it. Aren’t animation jobs outsourced just to make ends meet by way of production budgets? What a sham.

  • DDragon

    Wow, most people could get by their entire lives care free with just 1 million dollars. 10 Million Plus is just overkill.

    Now if you excuse me, I have to go to my minimum wage job to earn money for that single over-priced college/animation class I’m taking.


  • wow Amid…you are spitting fire :) and for a change we are loving it!

  • Chris

    I think that if these guys were curing cancer and eliminating hunger in the developing world while manning a space mission to Mars, the pay would be justified.

    Still, they do seem to be falling a tad short of even my looser standards ;)

  • Adam

    I guess this economy finally thinned the herd of free market capitalists who would step up to defend the kind of money these morons are making.
    It doesn’t help that these are the same people who allowed the release of Snooki upon an unsuspecting public.

  • NY Animator

    While these guys are buying islands, Viacom freelancers get their 401k suspended, and second tier insurance which periodically is threatened to be discontinued. Forget bonuses, too. They haven’t done that since 1999.

    Oh yeah, Viacom Corporate never cancels their fancy holiday parties, but MTV employee holiday parties are. This always happens whenever I’m freelancing for them, so I’m especially pissed.

    Screw these guys. Spongebob himself shouldn’t be making that kind of money.

  • Cyle

    You’ve covered this well enough that I don’t have much to add, so I’ll just say, “Well put”. Obscene really is the only word that comes close to describing that kind of pay.

  • Keith McCaffety

    Wow, I thought it was going to be a lot more than that. A LOT more. These guys are children compared to oil and weapons execs.

  • JD

    As the ol’ songs says…

    “Hang down your head Tom Dooley”

  • Donald C

    Seems a little small for executive pay but whatever.

    • $84 mil a year is too small for a media CEO? If you say so.

      Yes, I recognize this includes stock options, but even if we were just talking about salary it would still be preposterous. The continued rubber-stamping of such extravagance is an ongoing indictment of entrenched good-old-boy corporate “governance” boards. You could lop this level of management off completely and the companies would run just as well, if not better, making more (salary included) available for operations and R&D. You know–making and doing stuff.

      As it is, these guys are part of the problem. Not just in animation, but in America.

  • Shawn’s Bro

    Envy does not become you, compadre.

    It interests me that people who become artists generally do so in full knowledge of lower financial rewards because there are rewards of the spirit that are just as pleasing as having a big house and tons of money. Griping and moaning about the success of the people who took another path may indicate it’s time to re-think your life. :)

    • Karl Hungus

      Your point is valid, but completely misguided. We’re talking about a company that’s main subsidiaries(MTV, VH1, and others) take every opportunity to use unpaid labor in the form of internships. You’re talking about RESOURCES of a corporation that could be used to reward the work of any and every employee, be they artists accountants, production managers etc etc, but are instead diverted to overpay those at the top, simply because they are at the top. Not because they warrant the returns.

      Its bad business plain and simple. By any measure.

      • Sir Hibbity

        Any measure? Sounds like very GOOD business for these three. Unpaid internships and over seas labor allows them to make millions. The arguments listed above for how bad this is sound like their justifications for how good it is.

      • Magnusson

        To be fair, said individuals are likely sociopaths who can’t see/don’t care that their behavior is harmful to society. Luckily their precious, precious money allows them to exist outside of the fallout zone.

      • Occams Breadknife

        According to studies, folks who a) have a wider pay differential with workers b) have less contact with workers are far more likely to give them the ax.

        And I don’t think it is all about the money. It’s about getting paid more than the other guy, whatever the number is. A greedy, dangerous pissing match with many financial casualties.

    • Peasant

      You are right, sir. I chose to be a lowly peasant because I enjoy being with nature. My back may hurt but my spirit is rewarded! Please! Take this potato I would have shared with my family and give it to my King!

  • damn

    surprise surprise, an all american company overpaying its top dogs, i hope they go bankrupt sooner than later, maybe this way they’ll clear out the field for a newer and a better business.

  • Chris

    With that kind of income they could fund major cancer research and feed hundreds of thousands of 3rd world people…

  • Live Action Executive

    I think the fact that these gentlemen work in kiddy entertainment more than justifies the paltry sums they are receiving. How embarrassing, really. Cartoons! UGH!


    Just what kind of decisions are these guys making?? What warrants 15 mi-64 mill-EIGHTY-FIVE MILLION DOLLARS? A YEAR?! I really would like to know! It’s really worth it to have a few guys making 15 million+ a year rather than putting that money into ANYTHING ELSE? That’s not competitive, that’s a severe blow out!

  • Logicalnot

    Way to go! Great editorial. Keep them coming!

  • Jorge Garrido

    We need a new FDR.

  • Totally agreed

  • I am constantly amazed at how many people are so quick to look into other people’s pockets.
    I guess we should have a law passed, and make sure that everyone makes the government-agreed upon salary.

    • Marie

      Please read the comments above regarding unpaid overtime, exploited interns, etc.

      Also keep in mind that if the USA continues to reward the top 1% with unnecessary tax breaks, tax loopholes, exorbitant pay and other perks while screwing the middle class, the capitalism that you appear to hold dearly will be severely undermined by us becoming a two class society, rich and poor.

      This isn’t a zero-sum world. There’s enough money to go around if the greedy at the top don’t insist on keeping it ALL for themselves.

    • Dave G

      I read 850 people were layed off in the recent years by these guys. So when I see my neighbors are struggling to feed kids because 3 dudes can buy jets…Then YES. I start thinking something should be done. And if the shareholders don’t care than the government elected by the people and for the people may actually be a good idea to keep my neighbors surviving. Oh wait…they decided to air SKINS. Nevermind, I take it all back, I was starting to think like a commie.

  • I think the real question is why they’re being paid these amounts at all. The governing board is supposed to set executive compensation and clearly, they believe these guys are worth that much.

    I on the other hand, beg to differ. Viacom seems to be the worst when it comes to making the digital transition and if the three amigos were judged on that alone, they would be earning a pittance.

    In fairness, it is a very large firm, but at the same time, when your company’s performance depends more that ever on high quality content, it can be very hard to justify making people work overtime while you pay huge bonuses to executives.

    Do you need a comparison? Bob Iger (of Disney) took home about $29 million last year, including his $2 million salary and options.

    No bonus for him, even though he runs a firm with a market cap three times as big as Viacom’s and seems to be running it a heck of a lot better to boot.

  • Marie

    So glad guys like these got their tax cut extended. I was worried about their “tax burden” not allowing them to bring home more of their hard-earned pay.


  • Mike Russo

    It’s amazing how guys like this make annual salaries high enough to buy outright multiples house a year while the working class just keeps getting poorer.

    But it won’t change.

  • Cyber Fox

    Viacom will be dead meat sometime this year thanks to the american version of the british series “Skins”

    Let’s face it, Viacom doesn’t care about quality
    Why else would they sell off Harmonix for more of those talentless italian losers from “Jersey Shore”?

    What Viacom’s programming is watchable is sad in terms of numbers
    – Max and Ruby (reruns)
    – Penguins of Madagascar
    That’s all there is in terms of what’s really good on Viacom’s programming on ANY of their channels

    They ruined MTV, TV Land (formerly “Nick at Nite’s TV Land”) and any other channel they own and fill it with shows people never watch b/c they believe young people are stupid and they will watch anything

    I’m surprised they hadn’t layed a finger on Dreamworks otherwise we will see a ton of garbage that would make them plummet in profit so Viacom will sell them off for more no talent losers

    Viacom’s fancy for sex, violence and all things vulger is the reason (e.g. CSI) is one of many reasons why there’s RARELY ANYTHING good on TV anymore and it’s time to wise up and discover for ourselves what WE find as good.

    • I don’t think Viacom will lose its shirt due to Skins. Skins is technically a Canadian/UK co-production posing as American. Buying rights to the import is a cheaper option for Viacom than putting its own money in an all-American version of the show.

      Seriously, MTV and its sister networks are relying on Canadian content more these days. I just wish more of the money would go to Canadian creatives, and not to things like 1 girl 5 gays and service work for Planet Sheen.

      • Cyber Fox

        Regaurdless, The news regaurding Skins would result into boycott of MTV and Viacom will lose money
        What might happen? [a cautionary situation]
        – Whine and Cry to Cable & Sattelite providers for more money (jack up the carraiage fees even further)
        that’s all

        Viacom only cares about money, Max & Ruby maybe canadian but it’s very good one compared to CN’s canadian turdstain that is Total Drama

        Canadian Animation isn’t up to snuff as they once was after the success of “The Raccoons” even though the US treated the cartoon like dirt (pity.)

        ever since Atomic Betty, Canadian animation isn’t up to par to the toons we know like The Busy World of Richard Scarry, Care Bears (Nelvana) and Beetlejuice

        The following are good Canadian cartoons (post-Atomic Betty)
        – Busytown Mysteries (aka “Hurray for Huckle”)
        – My Friend Rabbit
        – Pound Puppies (Hub revival)
        – Max & Ruby

        that aside

        Skins is going to make our culture much worse, Think for a moment… If you saw Skins than you will know that teens are gullible enough to believe what they see and hear is real and the truth (e.g. anything from the mouths of any MSNBC reporter/”journalist”) and the truth so they will mimic/repeat this crap in real life thus making our culture a living hellhole

      • Shannon

        Oh HELL NO- don’t even start with the “Teens are stupid and will follow anything” crap. Its the lack of parenting that ultimately screws up for they are the ones in charge of making sure the child learned how to make good decisions.

        Besides, your culture is already “damaged” by other factors. Teens would already have seen or heard stuff like this from their peers, not from some stupid show.

  • Bob

    Well said; a tragic indictment of American greed.

    They couldn’t have taken cuts to save jobs? Why aren’t Americans taking to the streets when we read about abuses like this?

  • Bill

    No one else said it so…

    I am shocked, SHOCKED that entertainment executives are making so much money!

    Does no one remember the time Michael Eisner made $500 million dollars in one year?

  • Paul N
  • Mr. Critic

    Even looking at just the percentage these guys earned compared to what Viacom took in last year is ridiculously large. Viacom had revenues of 3.3 billion, making their salary a whopping 5%.

    If we follow the logic of corporate personhood, a rational person would find ways to not pay 5% to just three people.

  • Scott B.

    Does any one human being do anything to really deserve — or need — to make more than a million dollars a year?

  • steve stanchfield

    I just like that you used the word ‘Mofos’ to describe these guys.

    All wit aside, we’ve spent the last 30 years or so setting things up in both private business and the Fed in relaxing regulation so that the rich truely get richer and richer, flatlining the middle class, busting up the unions (remember when Regan fired all the air traffic controllers? That’s where this really all started) with less regard for who the consumer is, and barely any thought that if you get rid of the people who are buying your product that they can’t buy your product. The new model is that profit is more important than ALL things, and that this idea is now accepted by every kind of business- that is the biggest change. Even companies that are doing well have changed thier model to make the biggest profit possible. If you go into business, pay attention to what matters to you.

  • Sean P

    I obviously have 1000th the value of Dauman.

  • That’s a LOT of money…That’s all I CAN say.

  • Nickelodeon Person

    I can tell you as fact that a substantial number of Nick artists are working an obscene amount of unpaid overtime.

    Happy to see that all that saved cash is going to good use.

    • Other Nickelodeon Person

      *Raises hand*

  • Russell H

    I guess this explains why they don’t have the funds available to remaster and release Betty Boop, Terrytoons, etc. on DVD.

  • Magnusson

    Welcome to hypercapitalism. :/

  • Jay Taylor

    Why don’t we just say that if someone earns $5-10 million dollars, they’re not allowed to receive any more money for the rest of their life? These people are hoarding money, which leaves less for the rest of us.

    • Stephen M. Levinson

      So communism is the answer?

      • Jay Taylor

        If someone is set for life, why do they need anymore money? Does giving them another 10 million help them in some way?

      • Jason

        No, good business practice is. Our system is currently designed for short term gain instead of long term. Salaries like these being pushed to folks with little input isn’t a good sign of a healthy company. Actual creative resources get the shaft with no overtime pay.

        If you want to get all smug and yell out DATS COMMUZZIM then go right ahead. Us grownups are trying to think of a good solution for those who wish to work in the entrenched entertainment system.

      • Stephen M. Levinson

        So then why keep working for these companies if they treat you the way they do?

        And who are you to say “Us grownups”? Want a good “Grownup” solution? Start your own company and stop bitching about working for these guys.

      • Jason

        Starting your own company? Who’s your clients again? Oh yeah, people like these guys. It’s great that you’re idealistic but this is an industry level problem. There are professionals on this board and granted you’re still young, it’s a bit rude to assume that your ideas are the only ideas. Chasing and underbidding ever shrinking cheese isn’t a good solution when the majority is gobbled up before work has even started.

        Good luck on starting a company though!

      • Stephen M. Levinson

        If you think that Viacom is the only client and the only company to work for in the animation industry than you’ve given up before you’ve even begun.

        I’m not saying my way is the only way, I’m saying there are other ways than ONLY Viacom.

        You remind me of people who I tell should think of an idea for an app and they say “I’m not gonna develop an App. Every app already exists”


        Jason get off ur butt and do something before you lose all your hope.

  • Stephen M. Levinson

    If you think this is so obscene, stop working for these companies. If you artists are really upset about what you see here, take the initiative so start your own animation company and run it the right way. Unfortunately, many animators/artist don’t think like that and aren’t audacious enough to do so.

    These executives may do nothing significant on a day-to-day basis but the point is to get to that type of position. To be in a position where you’ve set up a company to run itself and collect income from it.

    Sure they may be giving themselves rediculous bonuses, but what’s stopping them? A “Nickelodeon Person” commented and said that they work tons of unpaid overtime… So, then why don’t you just NOT work over time?

    Don’t just complain and say “Greedy Greedy Executives! How dare they!” and then go back to your 9-5 job working as a low-paid, unpaid overtime animator for these guys. You CHOSE to apply for it and you CHOSE to accept the job.

    Go do something about it.

    • Jay Taylor

      The point is for us to be this greedy? There’s nothing wrong with collecting income from a company you’ve started, but does anyone really need $15-85.45 million PER YEAR?!!!

      • Stephen M. Levinson

        @Jay Taylor: If you decide to leave your job and set up a studio and do it the right way how is that being greedy? Anything with you artists that has anything to do with anything business is greedy. Unless you can survive on pencil shavings, you need to make money to live. No one REALLY needs $15-$85 million, but they’re in the position they’re in so they can do what they want. Don’t work for people like this if you’re soo opposed to what they’re spending their money on. Don’t complain NFL stars make as much money as they do if you watching them is the reason they can get paid soo much.

        Here’s a good example. The queen bee in a hive has her workers and they’re her slaves right? Wrong, she’s THEIR slave. Without the worker bees feeding her and running the hive, she would die. Think about it.

        @Jason So then start your own company. I forgot that the only way to work in animation is to work for a Viacom company. And I do work in an animation studio.

      • Having just completed Grad school and still unable to find employment, truer words could not have been spoken.

    • Jason

      I’m guessing Stephen M. Levinson doesn’t work in animation. If you don’t do overtime you simply get fired for various reasons.

      • Nickelodeon Person

        @ Jason: Exactamundo.

      • Stephen M. Levinson

        *as I read from my desk at an animation studio*

      • david

        Too bad it’s not from your own independent studio making independent artist controlled content to support the revolution you were talking about. ;)

      • Stephen M. Levinson

        In due time David, in due time ;)

    • david


      there is a little something called a MONOPOLY or CONGLOMERATE, there is also a little something called control of the airwaves. Your idealism means nothing.

      • Stephen M. Levinson

        Your lack of drive means nothing. Lets not do anything and instead complain.

        Revolution’s have happened before. This industry needs a revolution from people with drive and determination. Not people who just accept that its a huge conglomerate and say “well there’s nothing we can do.”

      • david

        oh i have plenty of drive buddy.

        I’m just also a realist and i’m not interested in fixing an “industry” because that is exactly what it is: an INDUSTRY with a paradigm set up to make a crappy product and exploit artists while treating them like cogz in da wheel.

        So i begrudgingly work in the industry and then i take my money and i selfishly work on my own personal projects, but they are so indulgent and narcissistic because they are made for the love of the artform (gasp) not for pushing more product into an inflated market of disposable bullshyt cough the internet cough.

        So you can rally the troops and try to start your revolution but this injustice happens everywhere and animation is not exempt from it. Good luck trying to persuade the people with kids and house payments or the young bucks willing to suck a tailpipe to get a job or the old “hasbeens” who were kicked to the curb because the young hipster sold a show or uniting the cliques and breaking up the prejudice amongst style whores etc.


      • Stephen M. Levinson

        Don’t worry David, I have big plans for this industry I’m sure you’ll be pleased with.

    • Mr. Critic

      Revolution means replacing an old system with the new. Your solution doesn’t work because the realities of the old system are still in place:

      1) to gain a following you have to put out product regularly. Animation takes a long time to produce, so to do it quickly, you end up sacrificing where you can, namely animation – either by hiring overseas personnel or doing the kind of cheap stuff already seen on TV (worse, actually).

      2) Building an audience on sites like YouTube means trying to get more views than turtles humping shoes and other videos that can be produced in minutes as opposed to months and years. And even if you do manage to get a shit load of views, you still earn $0 because you gave your video away for free. Good luck paying for rent with that paycheck.

      2) the supply of artists willing to work for free exceed the number of principled artists. So even if one artist decides enough is enough, there’s a city of artists willing to do his job for free.

      Collective action is necessary. And that requires resources, such as money, of which these three guys receive the lion’s share.

      I’m not going to say cap their salary or that no one deserves more than a $1 million a year. I don’t believe that to be true.

      But simply saying “stop whining and start your own studio” does not take into account the realities of producing animation with the level of the quality seen on TV (which really isn’t all that high to begin with).

      Pointing at those who are successful (JibJab, Homestar Runner, NeoPets, etc) only proves that to succeed independently, animation and art quality must be sacrificed in order to put out product regularly.

      Money makes the world go around. There’s a reason the rich get richer – money makes money.

      • david

        viacom owns neopets.

        you can make money through youtube through the partnership program some of the top bloggers making 200 g’s a year, not a ton but kind of a lot for a kid exercising his/her narcissism in front of a webcam. not to mention the exposure of things going viral.

        there are options not great options. I personally am just waiting for the power to crumble because it’s only a matter of time.

      • Stephen M. Levinson

        I see your point. I wouldn’t replace everything in the system that’s been set up. Just enhance it to actually support the artists.

        I don’t know what can’t be done so I’m just going to do it anyways.

  • red pill junkie

    Mr. Hungus is my new personal hero :)

    Oh yeah: you’re not so bad yourself, Amid —after all :P

  • Grimmy

    Those guys are symptoms.

  • DA

    Hey, since they are all set for life maybe the board of Viacom should all cash out and shut the company down, lay everyone off and just retire.

  • Cavepainter

    Well, there are six different New York Yankees that make as much or more as Sumner Redstone made last year, and nobody seems to mind that. A-rod made more than twice what Sumner made. Tiger Woods probably makes twice that, if you include his endorsement deals. And I’m sure there are 20 actors that make that much on each of their films, as well.

    The stupid thing these guys did was learn business instead of learn how to dunk a basketball, hit home runs or learn acting. Then nobody would have cared how much they make.

    Look, I’m not a fan of the ridiculous amounts any of these idiots make either. This is one of the main reasons why every budget in animation is literally getting squeezed to DEATH.

    I just think its funny that people complain about the money that someone who wears a pinstripe suit for a living makes, yet nobody seems to mind how much money is made by someone who wears a pinstripe jersey instead.

    • Not saying those other examples shouldn’t be issues to our society as well. But, this is a animation blog. I for one am glad Amid stayed with animation here. We can always point figures and say someone is worse or just as bad. However, Amid brings up a very relevant issue for animation, and just because athletes and actors get away with earning ridiculous amounts of money as well, does NOT make this issue any less relevant.

  • :(

    no more free overtime for these guys.

    Free stale breakfast bagels don’t make up for this kind of stuff.

    I want to see them go down. and they will.

  • Required

    Two words
    French Revolution

    And a small rant..

    It’s only a matter of time before the nut job crazies figure out that it isn’t the politicians they need to shoot at, but the fat profit taking CEOs that control the politicians.

  • Toonio

    And none of them has drawn squat! Ouch!

  • Stevie

    Sumner Redstone owned Midway Games which went bankrupt a couple years ago. Granted Midway didn’t make money for a long time, but the fact that Sumner did a very sneaky deal to sell his shares for dirt cheap to a private owner to avoid paying back the huge debt he got himself. Needless to say when he abandoned ship with his money the whole studio collapsed leaving employees with out their final paychecks.

    This kind of greed and careless act makes me angry as they lay employees off left and right and get rewarded for doing so. Don’t forget that his daughter Shari Redstone is apart of the business as well which knows nothing but how to flush money down the toilet. Hope your money can buy you out of hell.

  • Steve Menke

    As a (very) (minority) (okay, 25 shares left over after conversions from the predecessor I worked for) stockholder in Viacom, I can’t believe the nerve of these guys. Share value’s still WAY down from its peak in 2000, but that’s nothing compared to the job-cutting damage they’ve done and the creative bankruptcy they’ve upheld. (Oh yeah, the one year we in the rank-and-file received a bonus, it was a $20 gift card good at one of their retail holdings.)

  • Alphonso

    One group never victimized in mass media entertainment is corporate executives.

  • AaronSch

    The political left has villainized corporate executives for years. The negative depictions have gone way past the point of cliché. Even James Cameron’s recent animated opus “Avatar” couldn’t avoid the usual suspects.

    And by the way, how come the left never complains about James Cameron’s paycheck? Shouldn’t we limit Oprah Winfrey’s earnings? How ’bout Steven Spielberg? Do you people ever question how much actors haul? Recording artists? Athletes? This is nothing but class envy and left-wing hypocrisy.

    If it wasn’t for their move towards capitalism, China would still be hopelessly stuck in third world status.

    • Iritscen

      The names you mention are of people who create, not people who manage. Even when Spielberg et al. oversee the people actually producing their shows, magazines, and movies, there’s still a clear link between their actions and the finished product. Not so with executives who run media companies like Viacom. They’re just too far removed from the creative activity taking place.

      • Stephen M. Levinson

        @Iritscen, So are you suggesting that only creative people should have the right to earn ridiculous money?

      • djjuice5

        IMO I have far more respect for the go getter with passion who risks his own money to start his own endeavor and is actively involved in the creative process and makes QUALITY work and deserves whatever riches he gets of out it then a glorified middle manager like the three morons in the pic. They produce nothing, create nothing, and expect the world to rollover and hand them everything on a silver platter. It’s not as if Viacom produces anything worth watching, save for Avatar. Short term gain, personal glory, and long term brand destruction. that’s the Wall Street way of doing things.

      • Stephen M. Levinson


        I agree with you somewhat. I have so much more respect for people who are go getters and risk takers than people who have jobs doing what they’ve been doing their whole lives. That’s too safe and no matter how much respect I may have for their incredible abilities as an artist, there’s a reason animators aren’t paid millions.

        As far as what these 3 guys do on a day-to-day basis, I have no idea, so I can’t comment on that.

  • Herding that kind of money ends up making nobody happy.

  • Scarabim

    Non-talent screwing the talent. It was ever thus.

    Makes one long for the paternalism of Uncle Walt, who, during his studios’ early days, often gave animators raises before he gave himself one.

    Capitalism is not the villain here. It’s the way some corporations are structured. I’m with Mr. Levinson…the corporate mold needs to be broken, but it’s sure not going to be broken by likes of Viacom’s CEOs, who think the system is running just fine, thank you. It’s going to be broken by someone innovative and gutsy, someone who’s an artist him/her/self. I’d love to see that happen, and I’d love to work for such a person.

    • Jason

      Um,no it’s not. Again this is an industry wide problem. Assuming that the only solution is to work for a company that treats you well isn’t exactly uplifting when the majority of companies don’t aside from a mom and pop shop in a tiny studio in New York City.

      Saying that the corporation mold needs to be broken means that you don’t agree with pure capitalism. Which is fine but I personally think we need more regulation instead of redoing our system of commerce.

      The unemployment rate is currently 17%. Just think on that the next time you submit your demo reel.

      • Mr. Critic

        Not to get into a political debate, but what we have now, with government subsisdies to the richest of corporations (McDonalds and WalMart received Bailout money), is not “pure” capitalism. When the government helps corporations stay in power and accumulate more wealth, it’s not capitalism.

        It’s mercantilism parading as capitalism so people keep waving their flags.

        In the words of Noam Chomsky, “Capitalism is a great system, we ought to try it sometime.”

        To tie is back to the topic at hand, capitalism in this instance would mean those that actually worked on the products Viacom sells would get paid for the labor they sold to Viacom and it’s subsidiaries and that Viacom would have to play by the same rules as everyone else when it came to paying taxes.

  • Vincent

    A 90% corporate tax rate(like in the 1950s) would put the Kibosh on this kind of crap. When corporations are taxed at a higher rate if they take out their profits, it encourages them to funnel their money back into the company. Companies get bigger, they get better. They can do more R&D, hire more employees. My 2 cents won’t do much against their 80 million, but it is just a matter of time before the people notice who really should be the target of their anger.

  • Ryoku

    I dunno what makes these guys worth paying so much, but we should really just worry about our own money. We don’t want the economy getting worse.

    • Jason

      Life doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

      • Stephen M. Levinson


        Nor does it exist on a blog. And no matter what you say on this website, nothing will change until you do something.

  • Michael Martin

    The reason that these Viacom execs are being paid so well is that they achieved the goal of generating billions of dollars in profit for their company. Capitalism works because it’s a mutually beneficial relationship between seller and buyer; you want a fun diversion (tv), we provide it. If nobody wants your product, you lose; you make no money. However, so many people watch Viacom’s programming that advertisers wage bidding wars trying to get in front of them. If nobody buys their products, they lose. The system is ultimately the fairest in human existence because it is entirely merit based. Striving to be a leader in your field, whatever it may be, is not intrinsically evil. Viacom is an industry leader; their success is on such a large scale that people go crazy when they see the numbers and yell “corporate greed!” At one time, Viacom and the channels it incorporates were just start-ups. The reason they’re around today at all is cogent reasoning and good leadership. They won. A word of advice to would-be entrepreneurs of all colors: attitudes like “we can never beat the system [because…]” or “it’s just not fair!” are self-limiting. If the people behind Viacom told themselves during its inception “we’ll never be able to compete with broadcast TV; the major networks have an unfair advantage because their channels are free and ours aren’t. The system is broken and motivated solely by evil greed! Anyway the only reason people don’t watch our shows is that they aren’t dumb enough for the masses. Oh well, at least we tried,” they would only have failed themselves. Instead of looking at these problems as insurmountable roadblocks, they became challenges to overcome by entering the system as it was and, after gaining sufficient leverage, changing it according to their desires.

    • Stephen M. Levinson

      Wow that was so well put! I couldn’t agree with you more! Cheers!

    • david

      yah they also underpay their employees ship things overseas to slaves in the east as well as other outsourcing. BUT I GUESS THAT’S NOT CORPORATE GREED RIGHT?

      “The system is ultimately the fairest in human existence because it is entirely merit based.”

      if it was merit based then why do execs roll around in nice cars making money off artist’s creations and hard work. If it was merit based the artist would receive more of a cut of the merchandising, SHYT THE ARTIST WOULD OWN THE CHARACTERS AND LICENSE THE MEGA CORP TO DISTRIBUTE etc. at least.

      but it’s not like that is it? they own everything, the artist cuts off his/her balls or ovaries and hands them over. The hire the skeeziest lawyers to write up contracts that aim at inserting the you know into the artists you know.

      Capitalism does not work when it’s not regulated, because it’s no longer capitalism.

      The fact that you are defending these dudes tells me you might not be an artist. You also probably don’t care about human beings, like those slaves working 24 hour shifts sleeping cots underneath their desks shift and tracing crappy flat designs for a crappy tv cartoon. Oh the things those slaves do for your “fun diversion!”

      • djjuice5

        to be fair it’s the corporation that usually takes the risk to invest in the artist’s idea and they are usually the ones who fund the project, not the artist. so understandably they would own the project. I’m sure many creators know or should know what they are giving up in order to have their project on tv. Like Stephen said, you have a choice not to do things the old fashioned way. Take the risk and start your own business and make your creations the way you want them made. You would most likely have full ownership of your work and if you get rich doing it, more power to you.

      • david

        oh so the corporation was there paying the artists who were developing their pitches on their down time. right? yeah. They were paying the artist while he/she was making a pitch bible and coming up with story ideas,= before going in to pitch.


        and the “development” departments they have are only there to tell them to change the character’s eye color to blue because mom’s like blue eyes better.

        now they want even more up front, now they just want everything done for them, which is why they buy established properties from the past. cough TMNT cough marvel cough sherman and peabody cough hack hack hacks.

        Yes if an investor invests some money into a project he should own a part of the project BUT NOT THE ENTIRE THING.

        they have some stuff called 360 deals now, popular in music where labels own everything. Where artists used to be able to make money from touring, the labels now own that profit too. That is greed. It is unregulated.

        and yes the system is messed up but I am surprised at all the people commenting trying to justify the pay of these goons. You guys depress me. It’s no wonder why the biz is bassackwards.


      • Michael Martin

        “yah they also underpay their employees ship things overseas to slaves in the east as well as other outsourcing. BUT I GUESS THAT’S NOT CORPORATE GREED RIGHT?”

        Viacom’s only responsibility is to produce a profit for its shareholders. How they achieve this goal is irrelevant. It’s also worth mentioning that the “slaves” completing the outsourced work are doing so by their own free will. Again, running a business (or doing anything for that matter) and striving to be as successful as humanly possible is not inherently evil. Anyway, being greedy is only bad if you have destructive intentions, right? Corporations hire tons of people and are taxed a lot. The bigger they become, the more people they can hire and the more their profits get taxed, going to the government which redistributes it to the people through social welfare. Surely that’s constructive? And only a mind reader would know if the execs have destructive intentions. The reason they are big enough to do all these things is because of “greed”–the desire to achieve.

        “The fact that you are defending these dudes tells me you might not be an artist.”
        I might be an artist, but it’s irrelevant anyway. Artists simply want to produce the best work they possibly can. They should admire the Viacom execs for their tenacity in achieving this same goal.

      • Stephen M. Levinson

        David, your ideas about how things are and should be is very skewed. Work For Hire agreements are needed for liability reasons. Artists and animators aren’t taking risks investors are, so they’re not rewarded as well. Sure the artists are needed and undoubtedly produce amazing content, but you’re working for someone and are saying yes i’ll work for you and this will belong to you for $X. You’re not independently producing work and selling it to Viacom. If you want to pitch an idea for a show and they love it and make it a series, you’ll keep a % of ownership over the property. Otherwise, if someone is paying you to do something, you won’t ever have the right over it. And if you’re that against working for hire, then don’t.

    • Karl Hungus

      Michael, your assessment of the situation is weak on facts to support it.

      Viacom was never a startup. Viacom is the product of the deregulation of media that went through in the 90s -under a democratic president(i add that criticism to specify that I am a conservative criticizing a liberal administration). Viacom is a conglomerate. They acquired startups. The scope and wealth that they used to accomplished this feat is well beyond the realm of working people, but rather a function of a corporatist state.

      To succeed at a startup, to have a fledgling idea that is new and inventive, is not the same as succeeding at a corporation like Viacom or Turner or Disney. That kind of a pyramid structure does not reward risk taking. To be rewarded at a corporation, one simply has to tow the line, be a company man – a “yes man” – and remain at the corporation for a long time. What you have at a company like Viacom, a company with so many properties and channels that the lowest common denominator of programming gets reasonable returns, is people at the top who have “fallen upwards” for the majority of their careers.

      This is why visionaries like Brad Bird, John Lasseter, Fred Siebert, Tim Burton, and many more were once employed by giant studios, but left to make their mark on their own and then returned on their own terms when the corporation needed them.
      Corporations like Viacom do not further television. They can’t create a vision. Its spelled out perfectly by the economist in the article: those executives are getting entrepreneurial returns for a mere management position. They are stagnant and incapable of taking risks. They acquire ideas that are made separate from them. Thats not the american dream you are presenting.

      Conversely, I believe it hyperbole to say that its a system motivated by greed. Its simply a system that, through deregulation, created a stacked deck. With giant media companies controlling almost all the best established avenues of the landscape no one can make their mark on their own… they have to play ball. Look no further than the fact that after the media deregulation of the 90s, “The Muppet Show”- almost unequaled in its brilliance- all but disappeared from television. Why? Because an independent property would no longer be shown on tv. The networks were owned by huge corporations that would only show what they owned. Think about that… You are praising a system that blackballed the best content because they wanted ALL of the profits instead of leasing it for some. Its a strong arm tactic that has become the norm. Thats not the American way.

      The exact same thing is happening now with “Yo Gabba Gabba”. The studio that made it retained the rights to merchandise and even though it is wildly popular and even though advertisers will pay top dollar, no network will show it because they want all of those profits. Its such an uneven playing field that the corporations can disregard the first profit rule of the mafia: to never turn down a profit no matter how small.

      Its not a free market when cable providers only provide a limited number of channels in their packages. With a cap on that and corporations holding so much money and power there is no opportunity for striving to be a leader in the field. The field is fenced off to anyone who doesn’t give in to corporations demands. Clearly you must see this?

      Like other sections of the economy, deregulation has ruined the opportunities for innovation and competition. I’m all about capitalism working and all about entrepeneurs, but there have to be rules to the game. Your post recalls a time before deregulation when markets were kept separate and fledgling ideas prospered. Now they get squashed or dumbed down in every instance. Its a corporatist state and corporations have never done the real independent thinking.

  • Stephen, I wish you the best at generating a system that helps in supporting/rewarding the artists. As long as it’s based on results. You’ll win and so will they.

    Eat what you kill.

    Michael Martin has said it best.

    • Jason

      I’m not sure if you really understand the system of greed since you in part are helped by the Canadian Government, Gene.

      • Stephen M. Levinson

        Jason, the car you drive a company made to be greedy, the house you live in, a company built to be greedy, the computer you’re on a company made to be greedy, the TV you watch a company built to be greedy, the refrigerator you have a company built to be greedy, the clothes you wear a company produced to be greedy, your internet provider gives you internet to be greedy, the food you eat a company is producing to be greedy, the stove you cook on a company made to be greedy, the lights in your house a company made to be greedy, the phone you talk on a company made to be greedy, your music you listen to a producer produced to be greedy… You should really look into Amish towns.

      • Jason

        I’m Canadian. Quit making this personal and be professional. You still have a lot of growing up in your actual animation work and in your character. Education never stops.

      • Stephen M. Levinson

        Jason almost all your post responses have “because they’re greedy” in it. I’m making a point. You clearly are very opinionated about this topic of corporate greed.

      • Stephen M. Levinson

        Just to add “Us grownups are trying to think of a good solution” isn’t very professional on your part. Sounds personal to me.

      • Eric Paulsen

        Sure Stephen – but who built the roads those cars use to move about? Who paid to have the internet developed in the first place? Who strung all of the lines and created the electrical grid to electrify this country? How about all of the phone lines run across this great land? Was it private enterprise – or did they simply latch onto existing infrastructure put in place with the tax payers money so they could feed like bloated ticks on the life blood of the citizenry?

        I am all for innovation and realize that it comes because the promise of money is a great motivator, and I do not begrudge a REASONABLE profit margin to anyone. But let’s not pretend that these “giants” have built the world from nothing and we owe them for the very air we breathe – they manage to be better at exploiting everyone elses resources, knowing whose palms to grease, writing laws to benefit themselves. They are very cunning, these wealthy plutocrats, just not entirely deserving.

  • Mac

    “Mofos”? Amid,I’m impressed.

  • “For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.”
    -C.S. Lewis

    Thought it applied.

  • Eric Paulsen

    I hear a lot of angst and vitriol – I await with great eagerness the biting animated excoriation that is sure to come!

  • NJB

    that is so gross, those dinosaurs, dickensian monsters.