Cable Execs Trim Their Pay Packages

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Cable operators and programmers seemed to be tightening their own salary belts in 2008, with some top executives taking pay cuts in 2008 while raises for others were relatively small.

Cablevision Systems chairman Charles and his son, company CEO James Dolan, appeared to take the biggest compensation haircut in 2008, shaving $2 million and $10 million off their respective take-home pay in 2008, according to a proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 8.

Charles Dolan received about $13.4 million in salary, bonus and other compensation in 2008, down 13.6% from the $15.5 million Dolan earned in 2007. James received $13.9 million in salary, bonus and compensation in 2008, a 42% dip from the $23.9 million he received in 2007.

The main culprit in the compensation disparity: a $10-per-share one-time special dividend awarded to all shareholders in 2007 that was not doled out in 2008.

For example, Charles Dolan received a $2.5 million dividend in 2007 and a $612,000 dividend in 2008. James Dolan's 2008 dividend was also $612,000, compared to $6.2 million in 2007.

At Time Warner Inc., chairman and CEO Jeffrey Bewkes saw his compensation rise a mere 1.5%, and mostly because of a $500,000 raise in his base salary from $1.25 million to $1.75 million and an increase in stock option awards. Bewkes received $8.1 million in options in 2008 — up from $3.9 million in 2007. Most of that gain was offset by a sharp decline in stock awards — $2.1 million in 2008 vs. $7.1 million in 2007. Overall, Bewkes compensation for the year was $19.9 million, compared to $19.6 million in the prior year.

Bewkes came into the CEO role as an expected agent of change and he didn't disappoint — so far he has spun out its Time Warner Cable unit, reaping a $9.25 billion cash dividend for the company, revamped its AOL online unit and has also taken a lead role in the TV Anywhere initiative, an effort to bring content online in a manner that is palpable to programmers and operators.