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Putting together the ranked list of entertainment's most powerful women for this annual issue, The Hollywood Reporter's 20th, is nothing short of agonizing. For the top spots, the deliberations over who goes where became topics of vigorous debate in the hallways here at 5700 Wilshire.
In all the discussions, however, one undisputed trend emerged: TV, especially the world of cable, is ascendant, and women disproportionately are driving it. It's no coincidence that four of the top five women on this year's Power 100 list come from the medium (the extraordinary Amy Pascal alone represents film at No. 2).
Just a few years ago, film dominated entertainment with the most prestige, the greatest revenue and the biggest impact on our national conversation. Not anymore.
Programming such as The Daily Show, Mad Men and even Jersey Shore drives pop culture to a greater extent than any motion picture in recent years, extending its influence into the realms of fashion, politics, publishing and music. One major studio exec recently bemoaned to me that, outside of the Twilight franchise, film is lacking a major "event." "No one is talking about movies right now," said this exec. "It's all about cable."
At the same time, the earnings of some of the leading cable networks have dwarfed those of the major studios, and the valuation of Disney Media Networks — the division overseen by the list's top-spot holder, Anne Sweeney — is hugely more than that of its sister movie studio.
Total revenue for the entire movie industry this year is estimated by PricewaterhouseCoopers at $36.8 billion; by contrast, television advertising in the U.S. brought in $71.1 billion, and you can double that number if you add subscription and license revenue.
But economics aren't the only reason these women are at the top. It's also because television has provided opportunity that film simply hasn't. A newer industry, cable was welcoming to all when it was birthing multitudes of then-not-so-fashionable networks. The high-powered women at the top of TV largely got their breaks in the "Wild West" days of early cable — as one executive describes them — when television created openings that the established, more relationship-oriented movie world didn't.
None of this is to take away from the incredible women in film and other mediums on our Power 100. The same exec who decried the lack of momentum in movies was quick to point out, "It's all cyclical." Indeed, every single person on the list reflects extraordinary drive, intelligence and ability to weather whatever is around the bend in the industry. I dare anyone to not be inspired by every person in this issue. Congratulations to all.
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