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This story first appeared in the Oct. 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The executives on THR‘s list of the 25 most powerful Women in Global TV are the tastemakers of the global TV industry. Sophie Turner Laing, the new CEO of the as-yet-unnamed reality TV giant that will emerge from the Shine/Endemol/Core Group merger, will shape what the world watches. Dominique Jubin of CanalPlus and TF1’s Marie Guillaumond Tenet determine what the French tune into every night. Shaw Media president Barbara Williams does the same in Canada, while Germany’s Liz Mohn oversees an empire worth almost $10 billion. In short, these women are setting the standard during what many consider a new golden age for the medium.
NASHWA AL RUWAINI
FOUNDER AND CEO, PYRAMEDIA, DUBAI
The Arab world’s own Oprah began her career as a teenager on Qatari radio, progressed to TV as the youngest female presenter in the Middle East and now — following a spell with local broadcasting powerhouse MBC that took her back to her native Egypt — is stepping on the gas with her own Dubai-based TV production company. Founded in 1999, Pyramedia has offices across the region and in London and New York and has been behind hugely successful United Arab Emirates reality shows Million’s Poet and Prince of Poets, not to mention Al Ruwaini’s own self-titled talk show, Nashwa, on Dubai TV.
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CEO, RUBICON GROUP HOLDINGS, JORDAN
Ayoubi has grown entertainment outfit Rubicon Group Holdings from humble beginnings as a small Jordanian venture capital project specializing in animation into a global empire with more than 400 employees across four continents. In 2010, she forged a strategic partnership with Turner, taking her company’s own Ben & Izzy children’s show to the Cartoon Network, and has helped design an upcoming $1.5 billion theme park in Jordan. Most recently, she turned Rubicon to film, linking with DreamWorks Classic to help produce the 3D animated Postman Pat: The Movie.
CEO/VICE CHAIRMAN, CISNEROS GROUP, VENEZUELA
U.S.-educated Cisneros heads one of the largest media companies in the Spanish-speaking world. Cisneros Group produces about 6,000 hours of content per year, targeting primarily Latin American and U.S. Hispanic audiences. Founded in Cisneros’ native Caracas, Cisneros Group also owns Venevision, Venezuela’s top network. Cisneros took the reins as CEO last year. She learned the business under her father, chairman Gustavo Cisneros. “Becoming CEO has not been easy,” Cisneros says. “I’ve had to change the way I work, think and communicate with my team.”
The Christiane Amanpour of Israel, Dayan has spent her life smashing glass ceilings. The Argentina-born journalist was the first-ever female correspondent for Israeli Army Radio, the first female presenter on popular Israeli educational show Erev Hadash and, in 1993, she started the 60 Minutes-like investigative program Uvda (Fact), now the longest-running and still top-rated Israeli current affairs show.
DIRECTOR, SKY TERRESTRIAL CHANNELS, ITALY
As head of Sky’s free-to-air channel Cielo, D’Errico has reshaped the channel’s image, focusing on an adult target. She has increased the channel’s initial 0.51 percent share to 1.33 percent in six months, making it among the top three Italian native digital channels. D’Errico mixes Sky’s original productions like MasterChef, Property Brothers and Pawn Stars with international niche shows like Ci Pensa Rocco, featuring couples therapy from an Italian porn star. “When you identify your passions with your work, balancing everything is difficult, but it becomes crucial, especially in a creative environment,” says D’Errico.
SENIOR VP AND MANAGING DIRECTOR, PRODUCTION, SONY PICTURES TELEVISION, LATIN AMERICA AND U.S. HISPANIC
Under Guerra’s watch, Sony has produced a Spanish-language remake of Breaking Bad, known as Metastasis, and El Mariachi, a drama series based on the Robert Rodriguez revenge film of the same name. Guerra is overseeing more than a dozen productions thanks to recent multiple-year agreements signed with Mexico’s Televisa and NBCUniversal’s Telemundo. Says Guerra: “As Latin America’s top independent producer of teleseries, working with these great partners allows us to bring an unparalleled volume of high-quality content to viewers across the region.
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CO-FOUNDER, NEAL STREET PRODUCTION, U.K.
Give her credit for discovering Benedict Cumberbatch. Harris cast him, alongside fellow unknown James McAvoy, in her 2006 feature Starter for 10. The co-founder with Sam Mendes and CaroNewling of Neal Street Productions, Harris has done it all, from producing the Oscar-nominated Revolutionary Road to staging Shrek the Musical on the West End. But it’s TV where she’s had arguably her greatest impact, producing Brit ratings hit Call the Midwife and Showtime’s genre-bending Penny Dreadful.
CEO, CHINA INTERACTIVE MEDIA GROUP, CHINA
TV host, actress, blogger, magazine publisher and all-around media icon, Hung is seen as China’s answer to Oprah Winfrey, with a dash of Anna Wintour tossed in. Since taking over at women’s luxury magazine iLook in 1998 (she had been a factory worker before then), Hung has created a multimedia fashion-focused empire with herself at the center. She is among the country’s most popular bloggers, with more than 6 million followers on Twitter-like micro-blogging site Sina Weibo.
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CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER/COMMISSIONING OFFICER, CHANNEL 4, U.K.
She has run programming at three of Britain’s big networks, following stints at Channel 5 and BBC1 (where she commissioned Sherlock and Luther) with her current gig as creative boss of Britain’s Channel 4. The Australia-born Hunt has been responsible for some of Britain’s best TV — the BAFTA-winning coverage of the 2012 Paralympics was a highlight — and, in the form of welfare reality show Benefits Street, some of its most controversial. Under her leadership, Channel 4 was named channel of the year at the 2014 Edinburgh International Television Festival.
SENIOR VP PROGRAMMING AND PRODUCTION/BRAND MANAGER, MTV LATIN AMERICA
Colombia-born Iregui has creative oversight over MTV’s Acapulco Shore, the Latin American version of the hit reality format Jersey Shore. Acapulco Shore premiered Sept. 27. (The U.K., Spain and Poland have local versions of the Shore franchise too.) Iregui also oversees MTV Latin America’s international adaptation of the docu-reality series Catfish. “Opportunities definitely exist for women to lead,” she says. “We just need to continue to support and elevate high-profile women to get others excited about taking on powerful roles.”
DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF FICTION, CANALPLUS, FRANCE
Running CanalPlus’ drama department, Jubin has been a pioneer in the kind of cross-border co-production (U.K.-French series The Tunnel, Canadian-French co-pro Spotless) that has become standard issue in the European industry. Her exacting taste for quality mixed with a populist’s desire for ratings has given CanalPlus its winning edge.
SOPHIE TURNER LAING
CEO, ENDEMOL-SHINE GROUP-CORE MEDIA, U.K.
After nearly two decades shaping the British TV industry — first at the BBC, where she was acting director of television, then as head of content at pay TV giant BSkyB — Laing has taken on the greatest challenge of her career so far, heading up the new group that will combine the assets of 21st Century Fox’s Shine Group, Endemol and Core Media. The resulting giant will be the world’s leading independent TV production company, with assets ranging from reality TV shows Big Brother, American Idol, MasterChef and The Biggest Loser to high-end dramas such as Broadchurch, Peaky Blinders and The Bridge.
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VICE CHAIRMAN, CJ GROUP, SOUTH KOREA
Lee long has influenced the South Korean entertainment scene through her role at CJ E&M, the entertainment arm of CJ Group that has emerged as the country’s largest promoter of TV shows and films. Listed in Forbes‘ 50 Asia Power Women in 2012 and 2014, Lee was recently named vice chairman of CJ Group. One of the rare women leaders in Korea’s media business, she has been noted for holding women’s leadership events for employees and rehiring women with hiatuses in their career due to child-rearing and other reasons. The chairwoman is credited with promoting overseas remakes of Korean TV shows. CJ E&M will co-produce the Chinese version of variety show Grandpas Over Flowers with Dragon TV, while NBC has bought the rights to remake the program under the title Better Late Than Never. Says Lee: “CJ Group’s goal is for international audiences to watch two to three Korean films a year, view two to three Korean TV dramas per month, eat Korean food two to three times a week and listen to K-pop every day.”
SHAREHOLDER AND BOARD MEMBER, BERTELSMANN, GERMANY
Mohn may prefer to keep a low profile, but she remains the power behind the throne at Germany’s top media concern, influencing strategy and executive moves at the group, which booked $9.8 billion in revenues in the first half of this year, a seven-year high. Mohn, who counts German chancellor Angela Merkel as one of her close friends, also is one of Germany’s richest people, with an estimated personal fortune of more than $2 billion.
FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN, SHINE GROUP, U.K.
A perennial figure on THR‘s Women in Entertainment list, Murdoch founded Shine back in 2001 and — after delivering global reality TV hits such as MasterChef and The Biggest Loser — sold the company for some $670 million to her father’s News Corp. in 2011. Now Murdoch is looking to step down as chairman of Shine following its merger with Endemol and Core. The media world waits in anticipation of her next move.
CO-CEO, RTL GROUP, GERMANY
In a German media industry nearly totally dominated by men, Schaferkordt has carved out her own path as head of the country’s — and Europe’s — largest television group. “I’m not used to talking about myself; I prefer to pull the strings behind the scenes,” said Schaferkordt after winning this year’s German female manager of the year award in September. But Schaferkordt is no shrinking violet. Winner of the International Emmy Directorate Award in 2013 for her impact on European TV, she has shown the steely determination required to maintain and build on RTL’s dominant position. Under her leadership, the company, which operates 53 television stations across 10 countries and owns TV production giant FremantleMedia, has been aggressively expanding into the online video space, taking a controlling stake in Canadian online group BroadbandTV and, this summer, acquiring SpotXchange, a digital video ad group based in Denver.
FOUNDER, RED PRODUCTION COMPANY, U.K.
Shindler’s shingle, the Manchester-based Red, has produced Channel 4’s groundbreaking drama Queer as Folk, the gender-bending Hit & Miss and retirement-age ratings hit Last Tango in Halifax. Thanks to the influx of cash from StudioCanal, which bought a majority stake in Red last year, Shindler’s wish to do bigger drama — and for a U.S. audience — is about to come true.
CEO DISCOVERY ITALY AND GENERAL MANAGER, DISCOVERY NETWORKS SOUTHERN EUROPE
With the goal of creating a new Italian TV renaissance with nonfiction programming that opens a window to the world, Soldi oversees Discovery Networks in Italy, Spain and Portugal. She launched three free-to-air channels in Southern Europe and completed Discovery’s acquisition of Switchover Media, making it the third-largest broadcaster in the Italian market. Her career successes come from taking risks: bringing the former paywall program RBS 6 Nations Rugby Championship to male factual entertainment channel DMAX; creating Bake Off Italia, the most watched national digital terrestrial title ever in Italy; and also importing The Undateables, a show about people with disabilities looking for love. “Italy, specifically, is very male-dominated. When you’re younger, it’s easy to be intimidated by this,” says Soldi. “Over time, I think you play to that diversity. To some extent, I try to make it an advantage for the company, the fact that I am usually the only woman on a panel, or I am usually the only woman speaking at an event or sitting at a negotiating table.”
MARIE GUILLAUMOND TENET
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF DOMESTIC FICTION, TF1, FRANCE
Tenet cut her teeth on crime drama at the French commercial network, first overseeing the French adaptation of Law & Order and later overseeing all crime and punishment drama at TF1. Since her appointment last year as deputy director of fiction, she’s become the main gatekeeper for France’s leading broadcaster.
PRESIDENT AND CEO, ONTARIO MEDIA DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, CANADA
Being charged with wooing Hollywood producers to shoot in Ontario (the enticements: generous tax credits and location services) puts Thorne-Stone at the center of Toronto’s film and TV production sector. She also champions Ontario’s homegrown film and TV, interactive digital media, music, book and magazine publishing businesses with investment coin and marketing support. Before joining the OMDC, Thorne-Stone, as Toronto’s film commissioner, helped negotiate the deal that saw the city’s Filmport studio become Pinewood Toronto Studios, Canada’s largest backlot and the location of such shoots as Chris Columbus‘ upcoming feature Pixels, as well as the remakes of RoboCop and Carrie. Says Thorne-Stone: “There are an impressive number of smart, capable women leading industry organizations like OMDC in Canada. As a relatively small market, there are never enough opportunities, but I am confident that Canadian women are making a mark on our creative industries and are driving positive results.”
INTERNATIONAL PRODUCER, TOKYO BROADCASTING SYSTEMS, JAPAN
Starting her career as a news reporter in 1986 with Tokyo Broadcasting Systems (TBS), one of Japan’s major networks, Wada soon decided her talents lay elsewhere and shifted over to new media, creating apps and content in the early days of the mobile Internet. Following a stint in international sports rights acquisition for TBS, she began producing children’s TV before taking on international co-production duties in the newly formed Business Innovation Office in 2011. Wada has since co-produced the hit drama Mooncake with Singapore’s MediaCorp and the game show Find the Wasabi! with Malaysia’s Primeworks.
PRESIDENT, SHAW MEDIA, CANADA
Williams oversees Shaw’s 19 cable channels and is a major buyer of U.S. series such as Sleepy Hollow and Hawaii Five-0 as well as key backer of homegrown shows like Rookie Blue, Lost Girl and Vikings. A mentor and advocate for women both within the company and in the industry, Williams takes her position as the most powerful woman in Canadian TV seriously. “We still have a lot of work to do ourselves in terms of advancing women in our industry,” she says, “but we are making progress.”
FOUNDER, ROSAT FILM AND TV PRODUCTION, CHINA
Her Beijing-based Rosat has managed to win critical acclaim with its art house features while earning commercial kudos for astoundingly popular Chinese-language soap operas such as The Thunderstorm, April Rhapsody and Oranges Turn Ripe, which regularly break ratings records on national broadcaster CCTV.
FOUNDER, TEDY, ISRAEL
Israel’s top TV producer, Yardeni launched Tedy with her huband, Dudu Yardeni, back in 1973. After years of producing Israeli drama and reality TV — including the popular singing competition Kochav Nolad — Yardeni is expanding into the U.S. with the NBC series Allegiance and TBS sitcom Your Family or Mine.
CHIEF REPRESENTATIVE, STAR CHINA INTERNATIONAL MEDIA; VP, STARRY PRODUCTION, CHINA
Among the shows that Yin has produced at Star China are the ratings-topping The Voice of China, China’s Got Talent and So You Think You Can Dance. She also created the first Chinese original talent format to be exported: Sing My Song, currently being distributed by ITV Studios. “It is an exciting time in China for those of us involved in television programming and especially for women,” says Yin. “There are more channels and platforms for programming, allowing for further creative ventures. As a woman involved in production and business development, I am fortunate to work for Star China, a company that has a progressive, modern approach to the business — and that includes giving top opportunities to women.”
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CLOTILDE HESME, France
Hesme charmed TV fans with her role as Adele in Canal Plus’ zombie series The Returned. She plays a young mother whose partner returns 10 years after he committed suicide on the eve of their wedding.
JUN JI HYUN, Korea
The Korean film starlet made a splash on TV this year with My Love From Another Star, playing — what else? — an actress pursued by a 400-year-old alien in the body of Korean heartthrob Kim Soo Hyun.
SIDSE BABETT KNUDSEN, Denmark
Veteran actress Knudsen finally got international recognition with her role in the political drama Borgen. Her fictional Danish prime minister manages to be warm, steely and sexy.
KATHARINA SCHUETTLER, Germany
Schuettler’s performance in German series Generation War as a Berlin bartender caught up in the Nazi machine has raised her profile at home and abroad.
ANA SERRADILLA, Mexico
Already a superstar of the Mexican melodrama, Serradilla reached a new level this year with the crime drama The Black Widow in which she plays infamous Columbian cartel boss Griselda Blanco.
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