The 20 Most Powerful Women in Global TV 2015

10:30 AM 10/2/2015

by THR staff

These 20 female decision-makers from Berlin to Beijing are the creative minds determining what the world watches and where the business of international television is headed.

women_in_global_entertainment_panel - H 2015
S. D'Halloway/Image & Co.

women_in_global_entertainment_panel - H 2015

Meritocracy is a wonderful thing. The increasingly flat world of the media industry, where barriers to competition — regional, cultural or technological — continue to fall, has been a boon to exceptional women from across the globe. THR has chosen — with difficulty — 20 female television executives for our annual list of the most important women in international TV. From the CEO of Europe's No. 1 broadcaster to the person who gave the green light to the BBC's drama slate to the execs transforming TV in fast-growing Turkey, these women are the small screen's global tastemakers and opinion-shapers.

Reporting by Ariston Anderson, Patrick Brzeski, Pip Bulbeck, Lee Hyo-won, Agustin Mango, Rhonda Richford, Alex Ritman, Scott Roxborough, Georg Szalai and Etan Vlessing

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  • Deanne Weir, Australia

    Weir's passion for quality TV was ignited while working at Australian pay TV opera­tor Austar, where she rose to the position of chief operating officer. After Austar merged with the News Corp.-controlled Foxtel in 2012, Weir put that passion into practice as deputy chair of national agency Screen Australia. Through her own investment company, Weir Anderson, she also puts money into and provides business expertise to Australian content companies, including Hoodlum Entertainment, producer of ABC's Secrets and Lies. Says Weir, "The Australian production companies who will thrive are those who can make content with a global sensibility and who are willing to take the risks to put themselves out there."

  • Penny Win, Australia

    As channel manager of Foxtel's female-skewing W channel, Win has been at the leading edge of Foxtel drama production for more than a decade, overseeing production of some of Australia's most iconic TV series. But it was the success of the gritty female prison drama Wentworth that has captured Australian and international audiences, with local versions made in Holland and Germany — all before Orange Is the New Black hit the small screen.

  • Mary Ann Turcke, Canada

    An engineer by training, Turcke became president of Bell Media, Canada's top-rated broadcaster, in April. She is encouraged by the fact that Canadian dramas such as Motive and Rookie Blue already air in the U.S. and in international markets. "It's a tremendous opportunity for Canadian broadcasters and content producers to market Canadian television to the world, and we see Bell Media at the forefront of that opportunity," she says. Bell Media's CTV network delivered 15 of the top 20 shows on Canadian TV last season.

  • Iris Xia, China

    Xia began her career in 1997 at Shanghai Media Group, working under Li Ruigang — often referred to as "China's Rupert Murdoch" — as the creaky state media outfit transformed into one of China's most important media companies. Since 2004, she has held a variety of roles at Star China, the influential entertainment group with businesses ranging from TV production to broadcasting, filmmaking and music. Xia oversees the broadcaster's Anglo-American global formats, including The Voice of China and So You Think You Can Dance, and manages the company's international media partnerships with Fox, BBC and Hong Kong's TVB.

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  • Vivian Yin, China

    Former chief rep­resenta­tive of Star China, Yin was named CEO of FremantleMedia China in July after the international formats powerhouse partnered with local giants Shanghai Media Group and China Media Capital to ramp up its presence in the Middle Kingdom. Long a major player in China, having licensed such formats as Got Talent, Idol, The X Factor and others to local broadcast­ers, FremantleMedia China is seeking to develop new formats closer to the local market. "The China TV industry is undergoing a significant transformation," says Yin. "The rocketing rise of digital platforms has created an immense space and vacuum for entertainment content. The market has become more vibrant than ever."

  • Ana Maria Barreto, Colombia

    During Barreto's stint as commercial head of Telecolombia, the Bogota-based production company churned out primetime content for top local net­work RCN, which caught the eye of Fox International Channels, who then partnered with Telecolombia in 2006. Rebranded as Fox Telecolombia, the company produced Mental, the first Hollywood series made in Latin America. Since last year, Barreto has headed FIC's new LatAm content sales division, which boasts a catalog of more than 15,000 hours of programming.

  • Maitena Biraben, France

    Amid the chaos and controversy at CanalPlus after Vivendi chair Vincent Bollore slashed the staff, Biraben was handpicked by the tycoon to revamp the CanalPlus cornerstone program Le Grand Journal. After an early career in Switzerland, Biraben has been a fixture on French screens for years, headlining morning program Matinale for four years and weekend news and political program Supplement for two, where she made her mark interviewing such political figures as President (and close friend) Francois Hollande.

  • Marie-Christine Saragosse, France

    As CEO of the international broadcasting service France Medias Monde, Saragosse is in charge of putting France's best face forward. A graduate of the elite government graduate school ENA, she was credited with revamping the global French culture channel TV5Monde before being tapped to unify FMM after it merged France's global broadcast news and radio stations. Its flagship channel France24, the homegrown answer to CNN and Al Jazeera, broadcasts in French, English and Arabic to 42 million viewers in 177 countries. Saragosse may be tasked with delicately balancing local and global perspective in each market while servicing the huge and diverse audience, but she jokes that her biggest challenge as a female leader is "to have an unbeatable sense of humor and to avoid being eaten by sharks!"

  • Rola Bauer, Germany

    The co-founder of German boutique shingle Tandem Productions can lay a fair claim to having created — or at least perfected — the art of the European television co-production. Since its founding in 1999, Munich-based Tandem has produced such award-winning miniseries as the Golden Globe-nominated The Pillars of the Earth and its Emmy-winning sequel, World Without End. With the backing of French giant StudioCanal (which bought Tandem in 2011), Bauer has moved into serials, including Euro crime procedural Crossing Lines, now in its third season, and, with CanalPlus, the dark dramedy Spotless. "I'm proud of the fact that every one of our shows, all made in Europe, have sold to the U.S.," says Bauer, "even Spotless, which will be the first original series for Esquire TV."

  • Anke Schaferkordt, Germany

    The joint boss of Europe's No. 1 television group sees the shift from linear television to digital — where TV now stands for "total video" everywhere, she says — as the greatest challenge her profession faces. For Schaferkordt, that means commissioning more in-house series — such as Deutschland 83 — for linear TV, giving RTL's channels a "unique selling proposition … exclusive content that is available only from us" and continuing to reach large audiences across all demographics. A programming obsessive, Schaferkordt famously watches everything, both on her channels and the competitors'. "My favorite recent binge-watch series was undoubtedly the first season of True Detective," she says. "The second season unfortunately lost me."

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  • Margherita Amedei, Italy

    Amedei has been at the forefront of Italy's changing cinema distribution models, overseeing the launch of Blockbuster in Italy in 1994, leading the launch of Sky Italia's pay-per-view offering in 2003 and directing Sky Italia Cinema channels since 2011. With 12 HD Channels, Sky Cinema is a market leader in Italy, with the highest subscription rate of European pay TV customers. It's thanks to the premium content secured through deals with the five major studios, as well as exclusive agreements with Italy's top distributors, that more than 70 percent of Sky Italia subscribers sign up for the movie package on top of the basic offering. With more than 2,000 films a year and 300 premieres, Sky Cinema is in a strong posi­tion to take on newcomer Netflix when it arrives this fall.

  • Yuliana Slashcheva, Russia

    The head of Russia's largest privately owned broadcaster took her present position in 2013 after heading Mikhailov & Partners, one of Russia's largest strategic communi­cations agencies, for nearly two decades. At the helm of CTC Media, Slashcheva is not shying away from the major challenges that most broadcasters are facing these days. "Television should move toward dialogue with the audience," she says. "Development of smart TV, IPTV and video-on-demand have convincingly proved that more and more viewers choose how and when to watch shows and TV series."

  • Miky Lee, South Korea

    Lee plays a major role in shaping South Korea's enter­tainment market as head of CJ E&M, the entertainment arm of CJ Group that has emerged as one of Asia's largest investor-distributors of TV shows, music and films. One of the rare female lead­ers in Korea's media business, Lee has been noted for hold­ing women's leadership events for employees. She insists she owes her success to the mantra, "Engagement in business for national service," which she says is rooted in her enthusiasm for promoting the local culture.

  • Ayse Sule Bilgic, Turkey

    The former actress and columnist founded Dusyeri in 2008 and nearly single-handedly built the homegrown animation market. Inspired by her love of Sesame Street as a child, she created the first Turkish-language series with an educational component. The character she created, Pepee, soon grew into a full-fledged integrated brand headlining sold-out events. Bilgic credits being the only girl in her high school class with giving her the grit to take on Turkish television. "Now being the only lady in huge meeting rooms doesn't really bother me," she says.

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  • Hulya Vural, Turkey

    The Istanbul University law grad worked her way through the Turkish media sector before joining Endemol Shine as head of drama in 2012. She shepherded local program Broken Promises through a pro­longed development process to make the series Endemol Shine's first major Turkish export hit. Says Vural, "In Turkey, television draws a predominately female audience, so it's great to be a female working in TV planning and content production."

  • Pelin Distas Yasaroglu, Turkey

    Yasaroglu knows the TV business from top to bottom after working her way up from a production assistant to producing the record-breaking series Gumus, whose finale reached more than 80 million viewers across the Middle East and North Africa. She joined Kanal D in 2006 as head of drama programming, shepherding homegrown hits and adaptations to the screen, before being appointed editor-in-chief at the country's top-rated channel.

  • Dee Forbes, U.K.

    Discovery put up $1.7 billion in 2012 to acquire ProSiebenSat.1's SBS Nordic unit, instantly making it the leading international TV group in Europe. Forbes, a 14-year Turner veteran who joined Discovery in 2010 to look after the U.K. and her native Ireland, now sits in the driver's seat for this Scandinavian surge. "There has never been a more exciting time to work in this industry," she says.

  • Cecile Frot-Coutaz, U.K.

    The head of the RTL Group-owned production giant calls the decision to bid farewell to American Idol's run on Fox in the U.S. in 2016 "the past year's toughest decision," but she's looking forward to new successes. "I am incredibly proud of our German drama Deutschland 83, which was the first German-language series to air on a major U.S. network [SundanceTV]," she says. She adds that the company has "clearly defined" what it needs to do to ensure continued success in the digital age. "Between our television properties and our original creators, we run nearly 2,000 YouTube channels that attract 2.5 billion views per month," the company veteran notes.

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  • Polly Hill, U.K.

    In a year that has seen the BBC hit with huge layoffs, Hill has been handed the high-profile top job at the frontline of its defense. BBC drama has been riding the crest of a seemingly endless — and growing — wave for almost a decade, bringing back favorites such as Sherlock and Doctor Who, backed up by crowd-pleasers like Poldark, highbrow awards-flirters like Wolf Hall and series with acclaimed storytelling like The Missing. "I'm proud to be taking on this role and to continue the incredible journey BBC drama is on," she says.

  • Jane Turton, U.K.

    In February, Turton was promoted after running the U.K.-headquartered production firm as managing director since Discovery Communications and Liberty Global acquired it in fall 2014 for $930 million. "I am very confident that All3Media is the best place to be, and our plans are very exciting," she says. "The new owners are great. They are every bit as committed to our success as we are, and they come from content backgrounds and so have a deep understanding of the market."