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Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Discovery CEO David M Zazlav earned $128 million in 2018

Discovery’s CEO David M Zazlav earned $128 million in 2018
  • That’s according to an executive compensation analysis published in today’s New York Times.
  • Mr Zazlav’s 2018 payday was ranked #2 among all U.S. public companies.
  • It was exceeded only by Elon Musk’s TESLA package ($2.8 billion).



  • Discovery’s producers typically earn 10% of the budget for the EP/Producer’s fee.
  • Let’s say that the average cost per hour across all the Discovery / Scripps networks is $350,000.
  • The average Producer’s fee / hour is $35,000.
  • The CEO’s compensation equals Discovery’s producers’ earnings for 3,686 hours.
  • That’s in the ballpark for all of the new hours commissioned by all of Discovery’s networks in a year.
  • Note: Production companies also have to fund the development of their next series from their Producer’s Fee.

Discovery Inc. 

  • Launched by John Hendricks as a documentary channel, Discovery Inc is now a global entertainment company reporting revenues of $11 billion.
  • I can remember back when Discovery could barely make payroll.
  • Australian wildlife host Harry Butler was the upstart channel’s first talent who broke through with American viewers.
    • His IN THE WILD series was a low-cost acquisition from ABC Australia that helped build Discovery off the backs of snakes and lizards.
  • Discovery now operates Factual entertainment, Lifestyle and Sports networks as well as broadcasters, production companies and much more.
  • Discovery recently announced plans to launch a wildlife-focused SVOD platform in a jv with the BBC.
  • Who then could have forecast that Harry Butler’s stump-tailed lizard was a building block for a company with the current scale and CEO compensation package?

Read the NYT Report

Harry Butler passed away in 2015.
Meeting David M Zazlav in Cannes at MIPCOM.
I’m sharing a specially laminated roll up page of Discovery’s first international business plan, on which I was honored to have worked back in the ‘Harry Butler Era’.