Meet the female innovators who oversee empires, greenlight the shows that captivate millions and adapt in a rapidly changing media environment.
This story first appeared in the Oct. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Forget any talk of glass ceilings and token appointments. The executives on The Hollywood Reporter's Women in International TV power list are the deciders shaping an increasingly global industry. The likes of Shine chairman Elisabeth Murdoch, FremantleMedia boss Cecile Frot-Coutaz and Endemol COO Martha Brass straddle worldwide production and distribution empires.
Greenlights from RTL Group's Anke Shaeferkordt, TF1's Elisabeth Durand or BSkyB's Sophie Turner Laing determine what Europe watches, while Nigerian entrepreneur Mo Abudu is revolutionizing pay TV in Africa. A group as diverse as the U.N., the women on THR's inaugural list are united in their ambition, their savvy and their determination to make a mark on worldwide TV - and to do so on their own terms.
Reported by Gavin J. Blair, Clifford Coonan, Nick Holdsworth, Eric J. Lyman, Agustin Mango, John Hecht, Nyay Bhushan, Scott Roxborough and Georg Szalai.
Africa's answer to Oprah, Nigerian media entrepreneur and self-taught TV host Abudu launched the continent's first syndicated talk show, Moments With Mo, in 2006. Featuring guests as varied as Hillary Clinton, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg and IMF boss Christine Lagarde, Moments is carried across 48 African countries.
Abudu this year launched EbonyLife TV, Africa's first continent-wide broadcaster, targeting Africa's growing, aspirational middle class with programming that "celebrates style and success while motivating its audiences to dream and dream big," Abudu says.
Canadian-born Bauer pioneered the model of cross-border financing and co-production that is transforming the global TV industry. Her output at boutique production, sales and marketing company Tandem, based in Munich, has included Emmy-winning miniseries The Company and The Pillars of the Earth.
How does she handle the pressure? "I spend as much time as possible with my family, who ground me," she says. "I jog and try to eat healthy, and when stress is high, I get a deep-tissue massage!"
Known to casual observers as the daughter of Italy's billionaire media tycoon and three-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Marina Berlusconi has emerged as a key player by anyone's definition, deftly guiding Fininvest, the family's holding company -- which includes television giant Mediaset -- through Italy's troubled economy.
Says Marina Berlusconi, "Tough decisions have to be confronted to get through this difficult period, and they are necessary to leave us in the best position to take advantage of the coming recovery."
An Emmy- and BAFTA-winning producer, Bernth was the force behind the phenomenally successful Danish crime series The Killing, which is credited with kicking off the current wave of small-screen Scandinavian noir.
After taking over as head of drama at Denmark's leading public broadcaster DR in 2011, she greenlighted and executive produced The Bridge, another global hit that has spawned multiple local remakes.
As COO of the world's No. 1 independent production company, Brass is responsible for the Dutch giant's operations across Australia, Latin America, Africa, Asia, Scandinavia, the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe. Her Endemol slate runs the gamut from reality TV phenomenon Big Brother to the high-end drama Hell on Wheels.
When not working, Brass enjoys golf (kind of): "I am not sure if it calms me down or gets me more worked up -- depends on my game!"
As CEO of Mongolia's leading independent HD TV Network, Chinbat is hoping to bring legally acquired TV formats to Mongolia's 2.8 million people. She is based in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, but her programming also is popular with the nomads in their ger tents on the grasslands.
Says Chinbat: "When I returned to Mongolia after spending eight years studying in the U.K., I realized the broadcasting system in my country was underdeveloped, still influenced by government politics and needing someone to bring it up to Western standards."
A Columbia and Harvard graduate, Cisneros oversees one of the largest privately held media and entertainment organizations in the world.
The Miami-based holding company is the owner of Venevision, the leading TV network in Venezuela, as well as the branches Venevision International and Venevision Productions, a supplier of top-tier telenovelas. Cisneros Group, which sold Univision in 2007, was one of the first Latin American networks to sign deals with Netflix when it landed in the region last year.
The billionaire executive oversees a corporate empire with assets across TV (Kanal D, tv2, CNN Turk) and publishing (leading Turkish daily Hurriyet) as well as in the energy, retail, real estate, tourism and financial sectors.
Educated at Stanford, Faralyali spent 15 years abroad, including time as a consultant in New York advising Europe's leading media and technology firms on handling TV startups and international acquisitions -- including Hurriyet's $500 million takeover of Trader Media East in 2007 -- before returning to Turkey in 2010 to run, with her four sisters, the company her father, Aydin Dogan, founded in 1980.
With an audiovisual masters degree from the Sorbonne and an MBA, Durand was named head of programming at TF1 before taking over as director general last year. She has focused on diversifying the schedule, including adding late-night summer programming and abandoning an in-development soap opera that no longer fit with her strategy.
Durand's pragmatic approach to programming has paid off -- France's No. 1 channel halted years of ratings declines to once again perch near a 30 percent audience share.
As the top buyer for the global arm of Russia's public broadcasting giant, Egorova programs for an international audience of more than 250 million across five continents.
A linguistics major from Moscow State University, Egorova rose through the ranks, handling acquisitions for Russian network RTR and sales for production group Distraction Formats Co., before joining Channel One in 2007, where she also oversees the group's four international versions of the broadcaster.
Frot-Coutaz has been with FremantleMedia for nearly 20 years. After strategy and M&A roles, she rose to the position of CEO of FremantleMedia North America, where she oversaw such hits as American Idol and America's Got Talent.
In April 2012, she was promoted to the overall CEO role. From her base in London, she now oversees operations in 25 countries that produce more than 9,100 hours of content a year. Frot-Coutaz also has created a digital and branded entertainment division, a move that "underlines our clear focus on furthering FremantleMedia's position in this space."
A trained lawyer, Godfroid got her start as a newscaster in her native Belgium, climbing the executive ranks at RTL, France 2 and cable giant Canal Plus Group before taking over M6, then the country's No. 3 free-to-air station in 2007.
With increased competition from six new national HD channels launched in the past year, Godfroid has earned a reputation for taking risks at the channel that relies heavily on unscripted shows for much of its programming.
Guerra commissioned the first local adaptation of Breaking Bad, titled Metastasis. She also ordered a series based on Robert Rodriguez's revenge film El Mariachi, which is being produced in Mexico.
Both high-profile series have been sold in most of the region's major Spanish-speaking markets. Says the avid Breaking Bad fan: "It is such an honor and important responsibility to be the first to adapt this brilliant story for a local audience."