Women in Entertainment Power 100

Issue 57: WIE - Anne Sweeney Landscape
Wesley Mann

Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks
President of Disney/ABC Television Group

The Hollywood Reporter’s 19th Annual List of the Females Who Rule Entertainment

1. Anne Sweeney
Co-chairman, Disney Media networks; President of Disney/ABC Television Group

The Leader Trust us. We tried to find a way not to make Anne Sweeney No. 1. After all, she also topped The Hollywood Reporter’s Power 100 last year. And with our new magazine only weeks old, it seemed like a great time to look for a fresh face, maybe try a new approach.

So during the past few months, our editors crunched the numbers — and as everyone on this list knows, numbers don’t lie. 

  • Revenue at Sweeney’s Disney Media Networks last year was more than $17 billion, up 6%.
  • Those same properties are valued at a staggering $61 billion.
  • She oversees 10,000 employees, far more than any other woman in the entertainment industry.

It also didn’t hurt that when asked, “Who is the most powerful women in Hollywood?” almost everyone THR contacted — from high-level agents to producers and even rival executives — named Sweeney.

So what makes her so special? Since being promoted to the top TV job six years ago, Sweeney has steered Disney through the increasingly complex media landscape.

She oversaw an epic negotiation this year with Time Warner Cable that included unprecedented distribution rights to video-on-demand, and another negotiation that resulted in Disney pulling content from Google TV. She shook up the broadcast network’s executive ranks, tapping ABC Family president Paul Lee to take the reins at ABC in July. On Dec. 3, she replaced former ABC News president David Westin with journalist and writer Ben Sherwood. Along the way, the company dove headfirst into the iPad app game ahead of rivals. “The iPad was a seminal moment for us,” Sweeney says.

Married with two kids, Sweeney also recently assumed oversight of 10 ABC-owned stations while remaining a crucial ally to Disney president and CEO Robert Iger.

It’s no wonder she has his ear: If Disney Media Networks were a company onto itself, at that $61 billion value (as estimated by Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan), it would have about five times the market capitalization of CBS.

Not that everything is perfect. ABC continues to be her unit’s trouble spot, struggling to find a breakout show this fall, though it did boost Dancing With the Stars by casting Bristol Palin.

Most growth is found on the cable side. In February, the company will rebrand preschool block Playhouse Disney as Disney Junior in the first step toward building it into a stand-alone network.

“My priority is, always and forever, great storytelling,” Sweeney says. “Strong, relevant characters married to a distribution strategy that allows us to stay connected to our consumers.”

Colleagues describe her as somebody who doesn’t micromanage; she hires smart leaders, then gives them clear goals, resources and support. A few years ago, Sweeney took up painting as a hobby.

“I told my art teacher, ‘I can’t paint because I don’t know how to draw.’ She said, ‘You don’t have to know how to draw to paint.’ That was very freeing.”

— Sweeney profile by James Hibberd

2. Amy Pascal
Co-chairman, Sony Pictures Entertainment

In a town that has become increasingly corporate, Pascal stands out as one of the most individual executives around and one prepared to go out on a limb for the people and projects she believes in — despite also overseeing about 5,900 employees worldwide and a company that generated $7.58 billion in operating revenue for the fiscal year ending March 31. There’s a sheer imaginativeness about her that few of her peers can rival. Any executive would twist himself into a pretzel to make Men in Black III; any executive would do the same to keep the Spider-Man franchise going. But how many would give the green light to an adult drama about kids with the unlikely title The Social Network and allow its director, David Fincher, to cast it without big-name actors? And how many would put their studio’s most important franchise in the hands of an almost untested director like (500) Days of Summer’s Marc Webb, as Pascal is doing for the Spider-Man reboot? As one top agent said of her, there’s simply no other executive in town who has Pascal’s guts and her willingness to follow them, nor her commitment to dive into each film she makes. Partly, she has been helped by SPE chairman Michael Lynton, one of the few genuine Hollywood intellectuals and a corporate master, providing the best male/female partnership at a major since Sherry Lansing and Jonathan Dolgen had their heyday at Paramount. Of course, even more than by Lynton, Pascal has been boosted by stellar box office: Although her studio is unlikely to surpass last year’s record-breaking worldwide haul of $3.6 billion, it should come pretty close. The Karate Kid was 2010’s surprise hit with $359 million worldwide. That was followed by hits Grown Ups ($271 million) and Resident Evil: Afterlife ($290 million). Pascal has come miles since her first steps on the job, when the “chick flicks” she favored fell flat. Another hit, Salt, was one of the rare female-driven blockbusters; it earned $294 million and was further proof of Pascal’s willingness to take risks. (Who else would take a vehicle intended for Tom Cruise and put a woman in the role instead?) Pascal is that rarest of Hollywood creatures: an original who can still function in a studio system that has all but crushed originality. “We aren’t afraid to look at what we do right and what we do wrong,” she says.

3. Bonnie Hammer
Chairman, NBC Universal Cable

The Up & Comer: When Comcast COO Steve Burke ended months of speculation Nov. 19 and announced the new NBC Universal executive team in a corporate memo, guess whose name he mentioned first? It’s no surprise that Bonnie Hammer received a big promotion in the year’s most closely watched Hollywood shake-up. Her cash-cow divisions — which now include USA Network, Syfy, E! Entertainment, G4, Chiller and Sleuth — are predicted to generate $20 billion in revenue this year and throw off $2 billion in profit. The value of USA alone is estimated at $11.7 billion.

In short, as NBC bleeds money and Universal struggles at the box office, Hammer’s thriving assets are at the heart of the Comcast-NBC Uni deal.  

But when asked recently over green tea at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills whether she has followed the endless media coverage of the deal, Hammer deflected the hype surrounding her ascension. “I try not to read it … or buy into it,” she says. “The minute you’re visible, there are going to be bullets, for big reasons or no reason at all.”

Dressed in a form-fitting black dress and funky costume necklace, Hammer is warm and engaging but never loses her focus. It’s a hallmark of her management style. 

“I stay under the radar and say, ‘Everybody, we have a job to do,’ ” she says. “When you have a 17-year-old at home, you learn to work despite the noise.”

Hammer wisely shut out the noise five years ago, when she first suggested USA’s “Characters Welcome” slogan — and was met with a resounding “Huh?”

“Development thought it was an OK tagline, but it didn’t resonate in terms of where it could go,” she recalls.

Hammer says her approach to original programming is similarly calculated. Each of her series is grounded in a singular character with a lovable dysfunction (think Monk’s case of OCD) or has an upbeat — or what she calls a “blue sky” — tone, meaning it’s funny without being an outright sitcom.

The Hammer formula has produced cable’s most enviable slate: USA’s Psych, Burn Notice, In Plain Sight, Covert Affairs, Royal Pains and White Collar are six of the top 10 scripted shows on cable. The rebranding also has revolutionized the network’s scripted development process and turned the generic basic cabler — whose own research before the revamp found that regular viewers were embarrassed to reveal they watched the network — into the No. 1 cable network in all demos for five years running and NBC Uni’s most valuable division.

Despite the active year, the Queens native says she has prioritized her life outside the office and marvels at the relative peace she’s able to enjoy on the East Coast.

“By not having to socialize [in Los Angeles], there’s some distance,” says Hammer, who commutes daily to Manhattan from her home in tony Westport, Conn., where she goes by her husband Dale’s last name, Heussner. “What I love about my life at home is, until pretty recently, nobody knew what I did,” she says. “They knew I was a working mom who took the train every day into the city.”

Hammer earned a master’s in media and technology at Boston University and launched her TV career in 1976 as a production assistant on Infinity Factory, a PBS kids show about the metric system. That led to a gig as an associate producer on Zoom for WGBH Boston. Up the ladder she went, first on This Old House, then executive producing a local morning show. She spent two years in Los Angeles producing Alive and Well, a daytime syndicated/cable hybrid lifestyle series, before returning to New York for a programming job at Lifetime. In 1989, she jumped to USA as a programming executive. She has run Syfy (then the Sci Fi Channel) and USA since 2001 and 2004, respectively.

Hammer is channeling her programming prowess into an even more ambitious slate on USA. She recently greenlighted Eden, a dramedy about two brothers who are hotel concierges; Wild Card, more of a drama, set in a Las Vegas casino; and Over/Under, a Wall Street procedural she is particularly excited about.

“It’s a step edgier than anything we’ve done,” she says. It’s that attitude that has vaulted Hammer to her new position. “We can’t be complacent,” she says of the competition. “They’re right on our tail.”

-- Hammer profile by Ari Karpel

4. Oprah Winfrey
Chairman, Harpo

While audience members treated to Winfrey’s annual and final “Favorite Things” episodes have a sweet holiday ahead of them, their daytime queen’s future is hanging on the January debut of her new network, OWN, a joint venture with Discovery. Now that her syndicated talk show is over, the signs are unclear. Three unscripted veterans (Rod Aissa, Michele Dix and Drew Tappon) came on board this year to oversee programming, and the programs themselves will be all-important — meaning shows with stalwart Winfrey talent Lisa Ling, Peter Walsh and Lisa Berman as well as the return of Rosie O’Donnell to daytime TV. Succeed or not, with a net worth of $2.7 billion, according to Forbes, 35 million monthly listeners on Sirius and a Twitter feed with nearly 4.5 million followers, Oprah has a sphere of influence that rivals even that of her pal Barack Obama.

5. Abbe Raven
President and CEO, A&E Television Networks

The Trailblazer: Abbe Raven sits in the principal’s office of the Humanities and the Arts High School in Queens, N.Y., surrounded by two dozen students. She’s come to the high school where she was once a student to participate in a “principal for a day” program sponsored by the nonprofit PENCIL.

The pupils today are some of the best and brightest of the school, which is housed in a 2,000-student monolith.

“What’s it like being a woman with power?” one asks quietly.

“You have to speak up,” says Raven, throwing her hands in the air, trying to spread her energy around the room.

When the bell rings, they come to life, chattering as they crowd around a table spread of baked goods.

Raven, who’s dressed in a black pantsuit, flashes an easy smile as she greets a girl with glasses.“I want to see more energy, more spark,” she says later. “Where are the more inquisitive minds?”

She first learned to think for herself as the daughter of a politicized mother who once chained herself to the governor’s house during a civil rights protest. “It was a loud family,” Raven recalls. “And I was the young, scrappy one.”

As one of the few white students at Humanities, Raven was politically active. One of her proudest moments was getting suspended for taking part in a “pants strike,” wearing pants in protest of the girls’ skirt uniform. The policy soon was changed.

She also had a passion for theater, which she studied at the University of Buffalo before getting a job as an off-Broadway stage manager. She returned to school, getting a master’s in theater and film at Hunter College, then taught high school drama and English for five years before segueing to the entertainment business with a job “Xeroxing scripts” at Daytime, a new network in the budding cable television industry.

She has been working essentially within the same corporate family for close to 30 years. After Daytime split into A&E and Lifetime, Raven worked her way from production manager to director and eventually became head of programming at A&E’s History Channel. She helped shepherd in such new shows as Dog the Bounty Hunter and Growing Up Gotti that established a younger and larger viewership.

The risk worked, and Raven was appointed president and CEO of A&E in 2005. A year ago, she oversaw the merger of Lifetime with A&E and now trumpets double-digit growth in viewers and her company’s “best year ever.” Today, Raven heads the combined A&E Networks, overseeing 10 networks from Lifetime to History to A&E that together annually attract 300 million viewers worldwide and pull in about $3 billion in revenue. Raven calls herself “very competitive,” noting that she regularly checks Nielsen ratings and worries about which of her shows are in the top 10. But the executive says she’s motivated more by a protective instinct than bloodlust.

When she designed her new office, she made sure the outside wall was made of glass to physically remind her staff that they had access to her.

“My prior CEO [Nick Davatzes] instilled in me that employees are your priority and each of them have families,” she says.

Raven champions the integrity of shows like Intervention, on which people who wrestle with addiction are confronted by family members.

“When the idea for Intervention came along, on a business spreadsheet, it seemed risky for advertisers and affiliates,” she says. “But my creative viewer side said, ‘This could be really emotional, and we could really change lives.’ ” The hit show won an Emmy last year.

Personal breakthroughs are equally important to Raven. On a trip to Costa Rica with her husband, attorney Martin Tackel, and their postcollege-age son, she “broke through a fear of heights” and did a zip line through the jungle canopy. “I was screaming my head off.”

Today at school, her last stop is another Q&A session, this time with a larger group in the school library. Raven is in for a surprise: The school has dug up her decades-old college reference letter. “She is highly intelligent. And deeply interested in knowledge and ideas,” a teacher reads. “Abbe has our strongest recommendation. This is a young woman who will make a positive contribution in this life.” Raven laughs, shaking her head in embarrassment.           

— Raven profile by Tom Roston

6. Stacey Snider
Co-chairman and CEO, DreamWorks

One of the shrewdest in the business, Snider is fantastic at developing material and passionate about talent, which is why she’d also rather work with a Steven Spielberg than run a studio that makes two or three times the product of DreamWorks. Their partnership has made Snider an owner of DreamWorks, a company she joined after long stints at TriStar and as Universal chairman. After two years of securing backing, the company is preparing an ambitious slate that starts with the February release of the teen alien pic I Am Number Four. It also is benefiting from a huge chunk of the profit from the Transformers series, made with Paramount. With a distribution deal at Disney, Snider is returning to her roots: Disney studio head Rich Ross was her college pal at the University of Pennsylvania.

7. Donna Langley
Co-Chairman, Universal Pictures

“I have maintained a solid employee base during a time of great change, reminding people that even in difficult times, this is a great place to work,” Langley says. “I think that’s what I’m most proud of.” You’d think that the anxiety following Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal would be drama enough for Langley, but she’s also had to learn how to balance her work and home since becoming a mother. “Having things that require me to go home has actually made me better at my job,” she says. Certainly, things have gone better at work recently for the U.K. native: Langley had some bad luck this year when Wolf Man and Robin Hood turned into box-office duds, but that’s been redeemed by the megasuccess of the summer’s animated, Steve Carell-voiced Despicable Me, which has earned more than $500 million worldwide to date. In October, Langley also landed Sex and the City writer-director Michael Patrick King’s untitled comedy that will star Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock and Oprah Winfrey.

No. 8: Nina Tassler
President, CBS Entertainment

Tassler has left a giant imprint on network programming this year. CBS is the season’s top-rated network and its five new primetime shows — Hawaii Five-0, $#*! My Dad Says, The Defenders, Mike & Molly and Blue Bloods — are the season’s five most-watched rookies. Meanwhile, the Eye’s thriving series — the CSI franchise, The Big Bang Theory and The Good Wife — continue to dominate the ratings. “People still love watching big-hit broadcast television in huge numbers,” says the former actress and protegee of Leslie Moonves who, with her husband, Jerry Levine, moved to Los Angeles during the late 1980s to pursue acting. Tassler instead ended up working her way up the corporate ladder, first as an agent’s assistant at the Irv Schechter Agency then as an agent at Triad Artists for five years, after which she went to work with Moonves at Lorimar and its successor Warner Bros., where she cut her teeth on TV movies and miniseries. “When you offer audiences a show that’s exciting and well-produced, they devour it,” she says.

No. 9: Dana Walden
Chairman, 20th Century Fox Television

Walden loves a good laugh. “Every year, for our birthdays, we try and surprise each other in a humiliating way,” she jokes about fellow 20th Century Fox chairman Gary Newman. “Sometimes we’ll put a bogus meeting on each other’s schedules.” It’s amazing they have time for fun, given the primetime TV juggernaut Fox has become under their guidance in the past few years. This year, not one but two of its pilots — Modern Family and Glee, both of which Walden oversaw from inception to final cut — were up for the comedy series Emmy. Ultimately, Family took the top prize and the supporting actor in a comedy for Eric Stonestreet; Glee’s Ryan Murphy nabbed a directing award alongside Jane Lynch, who won for supporting actress in a comedy. Despite huge hits like these, Walden — a mother of two who has launched a slew of pop culture successes in her career, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Fox’s newest hit Raising Hope and is working on getting Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi drama Terra Nova off the ground — says her focus remains on fighting for those little-shows-that-could. “There aren’t as many opportunities to stick with it as there used to be,” she notes of supporting untested television talent. “But for us, it’s ‘Be creatively adventurous or go home.’ ”

The Woman Who Has Most Inspired Me: “My Grandma Rose. She lived to 107 and was the longest-living survivor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which led to the labor unions in the garment industry. It was this horrible fire where young women and girls were locked on to two floors in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory working, and the fire broke out on the sixth floor, and the workers were on the seventh and eighth floor and most of them died. And my grandmother went on to testify about the conditions and talk about the situation in an incredibly admirable way for a woman in that period of history. She was a hero.”

10. Judy McGrath
Chairman, MTV Networks

After 29 years at MTV Networks, McGrath may have proved a master at overseeing such pop-culture phenomena as Teen Mom and Jersey Shore — not to mention Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert — but she says her proudest moment recently was pulling together the Hope for Haiti Now telethon that raised more than $66 million. “It was a Herculean effort … staging a global fund raising concert,” she says. Between that and running a network group that includes Comedy Central, VH1, Nickelodeon and TV Land, does she ever relax? Yes, she says, by spending time with her husband and 16-year-old daughter and showering her first love — music, that is — with undivided attention. “I still see a ton of live music,” she says. “It helps me decompress, and it keeps me connected to the young audiences we serve.”

11. Sue Kroll
President of Worldwide Marketing, Warner Bros.

Kroll helped Warners hit $1 billion in box office internationally in May and the same domestically in July — a record year, all before ushering Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 to a staggering $604 million haul during its first five days. The studio superstar’s future there seems more secure than ever with the new lineup Warners recently announced as part of its succession plan. “[Marketing] is like putting a very complicated puzzle together, and when that last piece goes in and it opens, it’s an amazing feeling,” she says.

The Woman Who Has Most Inspired Me: “Miuccia Prada, in a very quiet and persistent way, has transformed the fashion world. It’s an incredible skill to be in the vernacular of everyday culture.”

12. Angela Bromstad
President of Primetime Entertainment, NBC Universal

“I’ve worked the hardest in my entire career this year,” says Bromstad, who weathered the Jay Leno Show ordeal and saw her bosses Jeff Gaspin and Jeff Zucker head for the exit. She also has successfully filled NBC’s troublesome 10 p.m. slot with such fresh shows as Law & Order: Los Angeles, Chase and the well-performing sophomore drama Parenthood. Her biggest challenge may lie ahead in the wake of the NBC Universal/Comcast merger. “I’ve been in this industry long enough to know that we just take it a day at a time,” she says.

13. Nancy Dubuc
President, History and Lifetime Networks

Through such shows as Pawn Stars and Ice Road Truckers, the executive has changed the way viewers look at History. Her approach has taken the network from outside the top 10 into the top five among all four key demos, making it the No. 1 cable channel with nonfiction programming. Now the self-professed Scrabble junkie aims to do the same as the new president of Lifetime, with 25 reality pilots and seven scripted series in production. “We know we have a brand,” says the Abbe Raven protegee. “And we know it’s strong.”

The Woman Who Has Most Inspired Me: “I never thought big enough to think that I could be in this role. Abbe Raven is the one who thought that. I value her humility and her steadfast focus and commitment to employees. She has her priorities straight, and that’s something lacking in a lot of our business leaders today.”

14. Lauren Zalaznick
President, NBC Women and Lifestyle Entertainment Networks

The powerhouse behind Oxygen, Bravo and iVillage is adding Telemundo and Style, as well as the digital properties Daily Candy and Fandango, to her plate per the recent NBC Uni exec shuffle. The New York-based mother of three says her family has helped inform her tastes. “My kids’ generation is addicted to choice,” she says. “You can’t chase them; rather, lead them.” Zalaznick led Bravo to its best July ratings to date with the finale of The Real Housewives of Orange County, and Oxygen’s fifth season of Bad Girls Club Miami broke premiere records in August.

15. Nikki Rocco
President of Distribution, Universal Pictures

Rocco’s love of numbers was key to her becoming the first — and only — woman ever to run distribution for a major studio. “I had an affinity for box office,” says the exec, whose long history with Universal dates to when she started there in the sales department while in high school. A die-hard Yankees fan, she remains enthusiastic about the distribution business, highlighting the animated 3D Despicable Me, which has taken in $418 million worldwide. “We never delved into 3D and what it meant to our business,” she says. “It’s not just ‘shipping a print.’ ”

16. Sue Naegle
President, HBO Entertainment

Naegle’s reputation for nurturing talent has led to the horse-racing drama Luck, which stars Joan Allen and Dustin Hoffman in his first TV series, and the fantasy series Game of Thrones. Although Big Love and Entourage will air their final seasons in 2011, the renewed drama Treme found its niche; audiences love to sink their teeth into True Blood; and the comedies Eastbound & Down, Bored to Death and Hung have been renewed for their third seasons. Oh, and the premiere of Boardwalk Empire became the most-watched season opener since 2004’s Deadwood, with 4.8 million viewers. “We are not restrained by advertisers or standards and practices,” the former TV literary agent says. “What we do need to do is to make the shows fantastic.”

17. Veronica Kwan-Rubinek
President of International Distribution, Warner Bros.

Born in Hong Kong to a Chinese father and a German mother, Kwan-Rubinek moved to the Middle East when her mother married her Lebanese stepfather. Living in six countries before enrolling at Loyola Marymount University certainly prepares you for the international world; few studios have done better there than Warner Bros., which this year passed the $2 billion mark for only the third time in its history on the strength of such worldwide hits as Inception, Clash of the Titans, Sex and the City 2 and Valentine’s Day. All that has been helped by Kwan-Rubinek’s ability to speak English, German, Cantonese and French.

18. Dawn Ostroff
President of Entertainment, the CW

Although the CW’s target audience is devouring hit shows America’s Next Top Model, Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries, Ostroff is intent on giving her audience a more extensive viewing experience. “[Our viewers] almost watch us like they’re reading a magazine,” she says of the 18-34 demo she’s targeting. “I literally talk to my sons and their girlfriends for hours about how they watch TV.” Ostroff, who before running the CW was executive vp at Lifetime Television and later president of UPN Entertainment, has eschewed Hulu and made sure the CW’s content is available only on its website.

The Woman Who Has Most Inspired Me: “Golda Meir because she was a woman who always had to play in a man’s world and had to come up against some of the toughest men in the world. Not only was she able to hold her own, she was able to win at a time when there were not very many women rulers in the world. She did things on her own terms, in her own way.”

— Dawn Ostroff

19. Ann Daly
COO, DreamWorks Animation

It’s not easy being Jeffrey Katzenberg’s right-hand woman — especially when his mandate is to have DWA become the first studio to release three CGI movies in one year. And yet, overseeing a Glendale-based operation of about 2,000 employees, Daly has done it: How to Train Your Dragon, Shrek Forever After and Megamind have grossed nearly $550 million domestically within the past year. “It’s been really difficult,” she says of the heavy workload. “I think three pictures a year will make us more financially successful and give the artists more creative freedom.” Now she’s entrenched in various stages of production on the next crop of animation features slated for 2013 and 2014, which include the sequel to Dragon.

20. Elizabeth Gabler
President, Fox 2000

Growing up, the Long Beach, Calif., native was less concerned with movies than riding horses, which she does now with husband Lee Gabler at their home base in Santa Barbara. “It wasn’t even on my radar as a job,” she says. Pursuing her love of reading in college set her on the path to entertainment. Today, three of the releases she’s most looking forward to are based on novels: This month’s The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, 2011’s Water for Elephants and 2012’s long-in-development Life of Pi, directed by Ang Lee. She also scored rights to the three-book series Pure by Juliana Baggott and will shepherd the youth-skewing Monte Carlo as well as follow-ups to Alvin and the Chipmunks and Diary of a Wimpy Kid in the coming year.

The Woman Who Has Most Inspired Me: “I’ve read all of Beatrix Potter’s biographies, and I’ve been to Hilltop Farm in London a couple of times. She was a superior artist and had an amazing imagination.”

21. Kathleen Kennedy

Since starting as Steven Spielberg’s assistant and producing such classics as E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and Schindler’s List, Kennedy has gone on to work with him consistently, currently on War Horse, Lincoln and The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. If only that were all: Kennedy also recently produced Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender. She could step into any executive job in town if she ever wanted to. Who can blame her if she doesn’t?

22. Nancy Utley
President, Fox Searchlight

For years, Utley and her Searchlight partner Steve Gilula labored under the vast shadow of their boss, Peter Rice. But when Rice moved out of film and over to Fox television, the searchlight, as it were, landed on the former marketing exec. Although she managed the Oscar campaigns for last year’s Oscar-winning Fantastic Mr. Fox and Crazy Heart, she says her biggest success this year was having four directors return to the studio: Danny Boyle (127 Hours), Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Miguel Arteta (Cedar Rapids) and Alexander Payne (The Descendants). “The trust built up over the first feature you do together carries over into the subsequent features,” she says.

23. Emma Watts
President of Production, 20th Century Fox

Watts got her start in film working for Oliver Stone’s production company, Illusion Entertainment. And equally meaningful as her Stone memories is the photograph in her office by her first boss, the late photographer Herb Ritts, for whom she worked as a P.A. in his studio. “He really captured people’s moments,” she says of the photo, Paradise Cove, that adorns the wall of her Los Angeles office. Watts will need the same eye as the studio moves “to elevate the caliber of filmmakers and put [them] with the biggest talent we can get our hands on,” she says. Among her projects: such tentpoles as X-Men: First Class and Rise of the Apes, along with other fare like Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo, R-rated comedy The Sitter and Gore Verbinski’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

The Woman Who Has Most Inspired Me: “My grandmother, my nana, is 95, and she has this amazing ability to adapt to whatever circumstances are thrown at her and keep her enthusiasm for life. The doctor told her that he was worried about her cholesterol, and she said: ‘Oh, don’t worry, dear. We never had cholesterol in my day.”

24. Debbie Liebling
President of Production, Universal Pictures

Liebling joined Universal this year, now reporting to some of the nicest people in the business including Donna Langley, Adam Fogelson and their boss, Ron Meyer. Liebling loves the material they’ve been cultivating. “I inherited a lot of really strong development,” she says of Safe House, starring Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington, set to begin filming in the spring in South Africa; Everybody Loves Whales, starring Drew Barrymore; and Wanderlust, a nudist colony-set comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd.

25. Eileen O’Neill
President and GM, TLC

Her Sarah Palin’s Alaska debuted in November to the network’s highest ratings ever. “Palin is top of mind for a lot of Americans,” says the 20-year cable veteran, who started as an unpaid intern at Discovery shortly after graduating from Bowling Green State University and who’s had stints working at Planet Green and Discovery Health Channel. This year alone, along with the controversy-stirring Sister Wives, her network has had 21 new and returning series that have averaged more than 1 million viewers, including American Chopper, Hoarding: Buried Alive, Cake Boss and Say Yes to the Dress. “Some of our biggest successes have come from families with multiple births,” O’Neill says. How do you explain that? “I’m a twin. A shrink would have a field day.”

Selection Criteria: For The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women in Entertainment Power 100 issue, editors based their selection of candidates and ranking on the following: 1. Revenue generated for their companies; 2. valuation of assets; 3. number of employees overseen; 4. impact and influence within the film and television industries; 5. ability to get projects greenlighted or proximity to greenlight power; and 6. reputation (general standing within the entertainment community, in addition to achievements).