Every year, Variety celebrates the women who make this city’s $60 billion entertainment industry come alive — and thrive. This year, we looked beyond familiar names to showcase 66 executives, producers, directors, writers and actors who deserve to be seen. The women who appear on the pages that follow have broken barriers, navigated TV’s streaming wars, produced indie movies on a budget Marvel would consider chump change and contributed to New York’s rich artistic landscape. We salute them for all that they do.
The Women of A&E: Elaine Frontain Bryant, Amy Winter
Bryant: Exec VP and head of programming, A&E Networks
Winter, Exec VP and head of programming, Lifetime and LMN
A&E and Lifetime have always known how to tap into the zeitgeist with their often-true stories — and in 2022 delivered the hit doc “Janet Jackson,” and revived the “Flowers in the Attic” franchise with “The Origin” limited series. “With the exponential growth in platforms and content, discoverability of our new, exciting movies and series has been a top concern,” Winter says. There’s a ton to be proud of, Bryant says. “In an intensifying fight for viewers, we are a winning team.”
Film exec, A24
While her résumé includes stints at Miramax and 42West, Aizenberg made her name as a founding employee of A24, the 11-year-old indie juggernaut that just swept the Academy Awards, including a best picture win for “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Initially hired as head of publicity, Aizenberg has risen to oversee all communications and film distribution strategy. A24’s “The Whale,” “X,” “Pearl” and “Bodies Bodies Bodies” were counted as specialty successes — in addition, of course, to all that Oscar gold.
CEO, Barstool Sports
Ayers still remembers the HR executive at Fidelity Investments who told her she was a “moron” for leaving her $50,000-a-year job in its legal department in favor of a $17,500-a-year post doing “interactive marketing” in its advertising department. The step down in pay didn’t last but the move did vault her into the dynamic world of digital media. “To this day, it reminds me that risk can yield great reward,” says Ayers, CEO of Barstool Sports since 2016. “It’s good to be defiant, to trust your gut and to not give a shit what anybody else thinks of you.”
Host and exec producer, “The Drew Barrymore Show”
Barrymore has found new life in the syndicated daytime series that bears her name and was recently picked up for a fourth season in a deal that will keep her on the air through 2024. It ranks among the top syndicated talk shows in the nation and averaged 1.2 million viewers per episode to start 2023. “I really mean what I say at the end of every show: ‘We make this show for you, so take it with you,’” Barrymore says. “I’d love to continue to innovate and disrupt the space. I love being in New York and the energy this city and our audience brings.”
Berlant has been all over TV, film and the stage in the past year: She appeared in the Amazon series “A League of Their Own”; co-created and starred in the Peacock sketch comedy special “Would It Kill You to Laugh?”; released her comedy special “Cinnamon in the Wind” on Hulu; appeared in Olivia Wilde’s sophomore feature, “Don’t Worry Darling”; and starred in the Off Broadway solo show “Kate.” So what is her goal for the year to come? “Hoping to find a primary physician I like who takes SAG,” she says.
Anchor, “Fox News Sunday”; chief legal correspondent, Fox News
In September, Bream became the first woman to serve as permanent anchor-moderator of “Fox News Sunday” in the show’s 26-year history, given the tricky task of filling Chris Wallace’s shoes. She has interviewed both Republicans and Democrats since taking the role and is intent on finding new subjects and voices for the Sunday show. “There’s a freedom to expand beyond what a traditional Sunday morning show is,” Bream says. “From athletes to musicians to real-life heroes, we’re always striving to bring the viewers something both interesting and, maybe, unexpected.”
Author and showrunner, “Fleishman Is in Trouble”
The newbie showrunner turned her bestselling debut novel, “Fleishman Is in Trouble,” into a buzzy FX limited series starring Claire Danes that resonates deeply with status-conscious New Yorkers of a certain age. “You show up on a set where the people, even the production assistants, have more experience than you, but you’re in charge of everything,” says Brodesser-Akner, who credits executive producers Sarah Timberland and Susannah Grant with supporting her creative vision as a first timer. “So you have to be in a constant state of humility. Because the only thing you’re really an expert on is this particular story.”
Exec VP, Def Jam Recordings; president, 4th & Broadway
Burnette helped shape DJ Khaled’s career at Epic Records and last month reunited with the hitmaker at Def Jam, the label where he launched his career as an A&R executive. “We have so much history and such big plans for the future,” she says. “It just felt right to bring him home to Def Jam.” This type of long-term trust has led to the prolific success of many of Burnette’s artists, from Muni Long’s 2022 Grammy noms to rapper Armani White’s viral hits. On her radar for 2023? “Afrobeats and the proliferation of pan-African genres,” Burnette says. “Popular music is truly global now.”
President, NBC News Studios; exec producer, “Dateline NBC”
In the past year, Cole executive produced NBC’s “The Thing About Pam,” a limited true-crime series starring Renée Zellweger that draws on extensive “Dateline” coverage; developed documentaries including “The Disappearance of Shere Hite”; and spearheaded podcast expansion. “Probably the biggest challenge, honestly, was finding enough hours in the day to watch and listen to all the projects we’re producing,” Cole says. “There have been days when I’ve had to give notes on a 90-minute documentary, a two-hour ‘Dateline,’ a scripted episode and maybe a podcast.” She quickly adds: “That is by no means a complaint. I love all of it.”
Partner, Ramo Law
Compas always knew she wanted to be an attorney in the entertainment industry, calling herself “such a musicophile and cinephile.” She leads Ramo Law’s New York office, where she has represented clients including Push It Prods. (“The Upshaws”), Imagine Documentaries (“Lucy and Desi”) and the Jim Henson Co. “The more and more work I did in the film and television space, it just really interested me,” she says. “And being able to see a film go from development all the way through to fruition and see it on the screen or television — it’s just incredible to me to know that I’ve been a part of that process.”
CEO, AMC Networks
Though Dolan was just named to her position in February, she’s no stranger to AMC Networks, having served as a longtime board member at the company owned by her husband, James. Over the past year, her primary role has been CEO of 605, an audience measurement and data analytics firm established in 2016. There, she leads business ops as well as partnerships with clients Warner Bros. Discovery, Walmart and ZipRecruiter. “I think of 605 as a mature startup in that we’ve come very far in terms of meeting growing demand for better and more effective television measurement,” Dolan says.
Chief creative officer and president of content, Paramount
A rising star at Paramount for some time, Diaz received more duties in February, when Chris McCarthy, a top lieutenant of CEO Bob Bakish, elevated her to oversee all content for premium cabler Showtime. Having made a name for herself in the unscripted space, Diaz will now be instrumental in McCarthy’s vision of building out multiple franchises around existing Showtime and Paramount IP. “I’ve always been a huge fan of Showtime since day one,” she says, “and I’m very excited about continuing to build this iconic brand and expand hit series like ‘Billions’ and ‘Dexter’ globally with our successful franchise strategy.”
President, Brooklyn Academy of Music
Early last year, Duncan returned to BAM after a two-year term at the Sundance Institute, becoming its president and the first Black person to hold the position. “Since my appointment, I’ve received a tremendous amount of support and kindness from all corners of the BAM community,” Duncan says. “I am a nontraditional hire in every sense of the word, and I think that enables me to see opportunities where others might see obstacles.” Duncan aims for BAM to become a place “where artists and audiences come together for the benefit of all.”
National correspondent, CBS News; anchor, “CBS Weekend Evening News”
Duncan prides herself on being flexible, and that ability to roll with assignments comes in handy when she’s filling in for Norah O’Donnell one minute and getting slimed on “CBS Mornings” another. Covering the Buffalo, N.Y., mass shooting in May hit especially close to home for Duncan, who was previously based upstate. “It’s unfortunate that I ended up back in the city that I consider like a second home because of that, but it was an important story and it shed light on issues of gun violence, issues of racism and issues of communities that have been forgotten,” she says.
Partner, Sloss Eckhouse Dasti Haynes
Eckhouse’s recent deals range from Jake Kasdan’s directing-and-producing agreement for Amazon Prime Video’s “Red One,’’ starring the Rock, to Richard Linklater’s “Hitman” pact. She also negotiated deals for Alex Gibney, Sam Levinson and the production company run by Liz Garbus and Dan Cogan. “What was really nice about working on ‘Hitman’ or on Todd Haynes’ film ‘May December’ was that they are independently financed,” Eckhouse says. More than any one project, she gets great satisfaction from the firm’s strong client base.
President, Advertising Sales, The Walt Disney Co.
Ferro is overseeing the sales initiative behind the ad-supported tier for Disney+, launched in December and a critical effort for the company given Netflix’s introduction of a similar offering for its premium streaming service. The Disney veteran also supervises all ad-sales outreach for a portfolio that includes everything from traditional commercial inventory on ABC to addressable, coveted spots on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” to interactive units on Hulu. “My team is always on, 52 weeks of the year,” Ferro says, working on tentpole events that lead to the “monumental day” that is Disney’s annual upfront presentation to Madison Avenue.
Chairman and chief content officer, U.S. Networks Group, Warner Bros. Discovery
A longtime lieutenant of Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav, Finch has gone from overseeing legacy Discovery lifestyle brands (including Food Network, HGTV and TLC) to running nearly 30 U.S. channels combined under the merged company, including TLC, TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim and TCM. “The cable business represents a very large part of Warner Bros. Discovery, certainly from a revenue standpoint and from a staffing standpoint,” Finch says. “And to bring everyone together in a short amount of time was a big challenge, especially because we’re spread all over the country and we have a lot of different audiences that we’re appealing to.”
Co-founder and director, Story Syndicate
Garbus directed all six episodes of “Harry & Meghan,” Netflix’s hugely popular docuseries about the former royal couple, and through the Story Syndicate banner she runs with her husband, Dan Cogan, she executive produced projects including Hulu’s “Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence College.” The reception to “Harry & Meghan” was instructive for Garbus, who is increasingly moving into scripted TV directing on series including “Yellowjackets.” “It was fascinating to be put in the shoes of my subjects by seeing the inner workings of the British tabloids in real time,” she says of “Harry & Meghan.” Watching false assertions about the docuseries proliferate “was quite eye-opening.”
Former chief programming officer, Paramount Streaming
Giles, who exited her post after our issue went to press, worked closely with Paramount Global divisions to bring new and library programming to Paramount+ and its FAST sister Pluto TV, with recent Taylor Sheridan offerings such as “1923,” “Tulsa King” and “The Mayor of Kingstown” a valued part of the pipeline. “Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies” will soon join just-launched Kiefer Sutherland-starrer “Rabbit Hole” on the service. “My hope is that Paramount+ gets a lot more credit for its content, the breadth of what we have to offer, but also the quality of the shows,” she recently told Variety. “People are going to see that we’re that must-have service that we’ve been saying all along.”
Author and showrunner, “The Summer I Turned Pretty”
In the past year, Han went from never having run a show to running two simultaneously. “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” her adaptation of her popular YA novel, debuted on Amazon Prime Video in June, and she began working on Season 2 while shooting “XO, Kitty,” a Netflix spinoff of her “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” lit trilogy, in South Korea. “I wasn’t really even sleeping,” says Han, describing a near continuous roundelay of set visits in Asia and Zoom calls with writers 16 hours away. “That was hard.” Her work mantra: “To me, it’s about feeling challenged and excited.”
Co-anchor, “CNN This Morning”
In May, Harlow graduated with a master’s from Yale Law School, and in November, she became co-anchor of “CNN This Morning” with Don Lemon and Kaitlan Collins. Now she gets up at 2:30 or 3 a.m., “which is a lot, but worth it.” She’s especially proud of her recent interview with former Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski but recently made headlines of her own when she pushed back on Lemon’s ill-advised comments about about GOP presidential hopeful Nikki Haley’s age. “Look, I’m a big believer in giving people grace,” Harlow says of Lemon now. “People all deserve grace.”
The Women of HBO Documentaries: Lisa Heller, Nancy Abraham
Exec VPs, HBO Documentary and Family Programming
The duo’s recent doc slate includes Oscar-nominated “All That Breathes” and Laura Poitras’ “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” along with 2022 Emmy winner “George Carlin’s American Dream,” “The Vow, Part II” and “Pelosi in the House.” “The Stroll,” a documentary about transgender sex workers in New York City’s Meatpacking District, debuted at Sundance, and five more docs unspooled at SXSW. “We have some incredible portraits of remarkable, resilient women on our upcoming slate from superstars,” says Heller, among them projects about Donna Summer and Mary Tyler Moore. Also in the mix for the pair, who have co-run HBO’s doc arm since 2017: the return of their Emmy-nominated series “100 Foot Wave.” HBO has long been dominant in the documentary world, and the execs remain bullish despite the increased competition. What’s the outlook? “Never been better,” responds Abraham.
Now in production on Season 2 of Apple TV+’s female-powered series based on Min Jin Lee’s bestselling novel, the showrunner is simultaneously developing another literary project for the streamer. Unlike “Pachinko,” however, “The Plotters” will not have any American characters. “There’s no safety net,” Hugh says. Meanwhile, The Thousand Miles Project, her incubator for emerging Asian and Pacific Islander TV writers, is finishing its first year with three pilots in development. “It feels a little unreal,” Hugh says of the program, backed by Universal Content Prods., where she has a deal. “I don’t want to let anyone down.”
LaTanya Richardson Jackson
Jackson made history in 2022 as the first woman to direct an August Wilson play on Broadway. The revival of “The Piano Lesson” was a hot ticket, earning great reviews and boasting a starry cast that included John David Washington and Samuel L. Jackson, who also happens to be her husband. “I cut to the chase, and that took Sam a minute to get used to,” she says. “I wanted to tell a story as uncompromising as August’s work.” Also an accomplished actor, she is hard at work finding her directing follow-up: “This is my calling.”
Co-head, CAA Publishing
“Lessons in Chemistry,” the title of Bonnie Garmus’ New York Times bestseller, could also describe the past year for Joel and her ICM Partners colleagues as they got to know CAA co-workers following the agency buyout completed in June. Garmus’ novel is just one of many bestsellers that the CAA Publishing team has landed on the charts in recent months, which Joel sees as a testament to the strength of the combined operation. “We believe in the books that we choose to back,” she says. “We want them to be durable and immensely satisfying to readers.”
A prominent stage talent with credits including “Les Misérables,” “Motown” and “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” Johnson made history when she became the first Black actor to play Glinda the Good Witch full time in Broadway’s “Wicked.” She knows all too well that theater lacks opportunities for people of color; reflecting on the role of Glinda, a coveted character in musical theater, Johnson says she appreciates being able to change the culture for good: “Let us celebrate all the firsts so that we don’t have to have any more firsts.”
Laura Palumbo Johnson
Co-founder, Magilla Entertainment
A leading purveyor of unscripted fare through her Magilla Entertainment banner, Johnson has learned how to spot the “extra” in what seems to be the ordinary. In 2022 the company she co-founded produced more than 100 episodes and inked a deal with Michael Sugar’s Sugar23 banner. Magilla continues to create spinoff programming from its “Moonshiners” franchise, including “Master Distiller,” now four seasons deep on Discovery. “I think it’s an accomplishment to be still standing in times like these,” Johnson says. “I do think it’s a testament to the culture that we’ve created.”
COO, Alamo Records
Jones joined Alamo Records just over a year ago after a decade at Atlantic Records, and in January her purview expanded when Alamo founder-CEO Todd Moscowitz teamed up with parent Sony Music Entertainment on Santa Anna, a company that seeks to support artists in building their businesses and maximizing creative potential. Jones cites development as her favorite part of the job — Alamo’s roster includes Lil Durk, Rod Wave and DD Osama. “It’s very fulfilling,” Jones says. “We also have a very young staff, so helping them to learn and grow as executives is equally fulfilling.”
Chief brand and international officer, Audible
Jurevics is on a mission to cement the Amazon-owned firm’s name as a fundamental player in the audio entertainment arena at a time of heightened competition. Podcasting in general “is going through a bit of a correction right now,” says the veteran entertainment marketer, who joined Audible in 2019 after stints at J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore venture, Nickelodeon and Sony. Bringing together disparate brands for global campaigns under the Sony umbrella has proven to be invaluable experience for the job she has today. “I really learned how to manage big multi-party franchises and get everyone moving at scale,” she says.
Partner, Literary, WME
A force in the publishing arena for more than 20 years, Karchmar has a lit stable including J.R. Moehringer, ghostwriter of Prince Harry’s “Spare”; and Amor Towles, whose 2016 bestseller “A Gentleman in Moscow” is being adapted as a limited series for Showtime. MGM is adapting Karchmar client Daniel James Brown’s “The Boys in the Boat” into a feature film. Pushing projects up the hill for writers is what Karchmar enjoys most about her work. “I love feeling so galvanized by a project,” she says, citing “the sheer human talent and creative accomplishment that animates it and the knowledge that it may change minds or open hearts.”
President and CEO, International Markets, Global Consumer Products & Experiences, Paramount Global
Kaufman received not one but two major promotions in 2022, first to head of Paramount Global’s consumer products and experiences and then to CEO of international markets after a shake-up in that division. Kaufman’s background in nurturing brands ranging from “SpongeBob SquarePants” to “Paw Patrol” is proving invaluable as she works to extend Paramount’s reach across multiple continents. Among her top priorities is furthering the international rollout of Paramount+ and ad-supported streamer Pluto TV. In her spare time Kaufman, a “super fan” of music, is on the board of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Exec VP, Global Catalog, Legacy Recordings, Sony Music Entertainment
Leading Sony’s catalog division doesn’t always involve ancient golden oldies. “Someone’s career doesn’t have to be over in order to engage with a catalog,” Koppe says, citing a fifth-anniversary campaign promoting SZA’s “Ctrl.” But Legacy’s foremost 2022 accomplishment was truly vintage: promoting Elvis Presley in conjunction with a smash biopic. “Sixty-something percent of all new listeners that engaged with Elvis were 18 to 34; six months later, most of them were still engaging” — something Koppe knows because “I geek out on data.” After working for Sony for 25 years, Koppe still feels “like a kid in a candy store, and the candy is 125-plus years of recorded music.”
President, Alternative Distribution Alliance
Since joining ADA Worldwide, Warner Music Group’s independent artist and label services arm, two years ago, Kreidich has put a focus on tech-enabled solutions, including the company’s first proprietary distribution tool developed specifically for the indie community, in the process empowering artists and labels to run their businesses more efficiently. Among ADA’s other successes: Central Cee’s “23” mixtape debuted at No. 1 in the U.K., Macklemore and Ryan Lewis celebrated their second RIAA certified diamond single, and Quevado was No. 1 on the Spotify Global Singles chart for 50 days.
The Women of Live Nation: Stacie George, Maria Lanao
George: Senior VP, Booking, Live Nation Northeast
Lanao: Latin talent buyer, Live Nation Northeast
From Bad Bunny’s back-to-back sold-out nights at Yankee Stadium to the hip-hop 50th-anniversary celebration concerts hitting New York later this year, George and Lanao’s booking partnership for City Parks’ SummerStage festival is as fruitful as a win can be. “As a New Yorker for over 10 years now, I have always wanted to curate a diverse lineup at the most notable parks venue in the city,” says George. And Lanao is looking to super-serve the rapidly growing Latin markets spreading across the U.S. “In the past there was this idea that certain genres did not cross over with East and West coasts, but that is not the case now. We will absolutely continue to see more growth and opportunities in other parts of the country and in states Latin music tours have traditionally skipped over.”
Senior VP, Promotion and Operations, RCA Records
Behind some of 2022’s most-played music, from Steve Lacy’s Grammy-nominated “Bad Habit” to SZA’s record-breaking album “SOS,” Maldonado works alongside co-head of promotion Keith Rothschild, and is instrumental in forming the strategy and execution of national radio promotion. She has helped artists such as Latto and Doja Cat become airwave mainstays. “There’s an obvious cultural shift happening in the world, and we need to be able to move at a faster pace to embrace what’s happening around us musically,” she says. “From reggaeton to K-pop to Afrobeats and beyond — what’s next?”
Exec VP, Global Corporate Social Responsibility, Events and Special Projects, Universal Music Group
Mazo oversees UMG’s worldwide philanthropic efforts and special projects, including the company’s fully carbon-neutral Grammy Week events, and she has strengthened the company’s partnership with Reverb to produce eco-friendly activities. She continues to work with UMG’s All Together Now Foundation, which partners with employees, artists and fans to support orgs around the globe, and was an advocate for the Use Your Voice campaign for voter education and access in the U.S. “We want to demonstrate to the industry that a more sustainable approach is not only achievable, but that it can be executed at the highest level and in a manner that’s accessible,” she says.
Partner, Debevoise & Plimpton
If hammering out the $130 billion deal between Discovery and AT&T for WarnerMedia was a two-week sprint for Meng and her legal team, getting it to the finish line 11 months later was a marathon. The biggest challenge of the carve-out transaction: addressing all the shared agreements between AT&T and WarnerMedia. “It is one of the largest deals that any M&A lawyer will work on in their lifetimes,” says Meng. “So I don’t think about topping it. I will be hopefully lucky enough to continue working with Warner Bros. Discovery for years to come.”
Actor, “Funny Girl”
There is no denying that the latest “Funny Girl” topliner is “the greatest star.” When the former “Glee” player took over the role of Fanny Brice in September, the struggling Broadway revival experienced a reversal of fortune and even broke several house records at the August Wilson Theatre. “It has been a dream come true, but a lot of hard work as well,” she says. Theatergoers may still be reluctant to leave their homes, but the chance to hear “People” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade” pour out of Michele’s mouth like honey has brought them out. “It’s so incredibly thrilling to see the smiles on audience faces every evening,” she says.
Exec VP, Creative Development, Electric Feel
When she joined music management firm Electric Feel just nine months ago, Morrow was ready for a new adventure. She brought her 35 years of experience in growing young writers to CEO and founder Austin Rosen’s flourishing independent company, home to clients Post Malone, Iann Dior and 24kGoldn. Her day-to-day duties include developing collaborations, setting up songwriting camps and finding additional revenue sources so that songwriters can enhance their value. “Although there have been significant advancements over the past few years with the rise in digital platforms, there is always more work to be done to advocate for songwriters,” Morrow says.
Chief content officer, Primary Wave Music
Primary Wave has fast become a major player in the music catalog acquisition and development field, and Nastaskin has put more than 30 music-driven projects into development and production since joining the company from UTA in 2021. These include biographical films about James Brown, Olivia Newton-John, Luther Vandross and Sun Records, as well as feature film projects with soundtracks inspired by the music of Air Supply and Bing Crosby. She also has struck theater partnerships with Lively McCabe for a slate of music-powered jukebox musicals, and with TEG+ for catalog-inspired Broadway shows. “We’re fortunate to work with some of the most in-demand, coveted music in the world,” she says.
The Women of NBCU: Valari Staab, Jennifer Storms
Staab: Chairman, NBCUniversal Local
Storms: CMO, Entertainment and Sports, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming
The past year was a huge success for NBCUniversal’s Entertainment and Sports divisions and its local media arm, but not without challenges. The local arm is in the middle of pivoting from a broadcast news mindset to streaming. “Innovation and change are not easy, but our stations are doing a really great job at maintaining their high-quality, regularly scheduled newscasts while going live often with streaming content on their 24/7 FAST channels,” Staab says. Storms’ group, meanwhile, updated NBCU’s marketing approach, called Symphony, to “deliver a stronger competitive advantage with immediate outsized results for our collective and individual brands,” she says.
Exec VP, A&R and Catalog Development, Reservoir Media
Getting the De La Soul catalog on streaming services was “a historic moment, 34 years in the making,” that involved “18 months of intense work to clear all the samples and prepare the audio,” Newman says. “It was especially meaningful to do this for Dave [Jolicoeur; the rapper died in February] and have his memory live on through the music.” Newman has leaned hard into personal relationships to get deals done amid the intense competition for catalog music. Meanwhile, being an inaugural board member of the Universal Hip Hop Museum — coming to the Bronx in 2024 — “means everything” to Newman, a rap fanatic since age 13.
Partner and head of Media and Brand Strategy, Activist Artists Management
Two Activist clients enjoyed tours that were among the biggest of 2022: Dead & Company and the Lumineers. The former will disband after this year, although Bob Weir’s post-Dead plans involve staying busier than ever. The Lumineers still haven’t plateaued, and they graduated to the stadium level in some markets in 2022. As a company name, Activist is literal; advocating for sustainability is a priority, Norris points out. The firm is championing a women-run nonprofit, Sound Future, to “accelerate climate innovation for the live-event industry.” Her sector’s biggest challenge? “Wellness on the road,” physically and mentally: “We talk a lot to thought leaders in this space.”
President, Networks, Disney Entertainment
A longtime ABC and Disney insider who has emerged over the past two years as a key lieutenant for Dana Walden, OConnell helps steer linear and digital distribution strategies for entertainment channels including FX, Freeform and Disney Channel, but not ESPN. OConnell’s background in managing retail-level TV at ABC’s owned-and-operated stations gives her strong insight about evolving TV viewing habits. “People have more viewing options than ever before, and that has changed the way we think about television and how we serve multiple endpoints,” she says.
Actor, “Dana H.”
She won a Tony Award for her portrayal in “Dana H.” of Dana Higginbotham, a Florida chaplain held captive by a psychiatric patient for five months. In what Variety called “a mesmerizing solo show of theatrical shamanism,” O’Connell lip-syncs to a recording of Higginbotham’s voice. “It was something that we made with no wild dream that it could go to Broadway, let alone be embraced like it was,” says O’Connell, who will reprise the role at the Royal Court in London next year. Also in the works: a role in “The Batman” spinoff series “The Penguin” with Colin Farrell.
Agent, Brand Partnerships, Wasserman Music
Perez works to help artists find brand partners that fit with their creative vision. One such project this year brought together rapper Kendrick Lamar and Cash App for a video that played before every show on his “Big Steppers” tour; the video promoted financial literacy with the message, “Invest in yourself #thatsmoney.” As for what she would change about the music industry, Perez strives to see an increase in intersectional voices. She says: “Bringing more individuals of different backgrounds creates a diverse range of perspectives which lead to intentional approach and purposeful actions.”
Founder, Trilogy Films
Porter returned to her native New York City last year, a move spurred by the pandemic, and is especially proud of her work on “37 Words,” an ESPN documentary about Title IX, the landmark 1972 legislation barring sex discrimination in high school sports. A particular thrill: interviewing Billie Jean King and Gloria Steinem for the first time together. “That was really special, and to be able to do it in my hometown, where all of us are New Yorkers, was pretty great,” Porter says. Up next: “Eyes on the Prize” for HBO and another doc series on the Supreme Court for Showtime.
Exec VP, Global Touring, AEG Presents
In a blockbuster year, Rathwell promoted the final North American dates of Elton John’s multiyear “Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour” — the highest-grossing tour of all time — along with major treks for Lorde, Carrie Underwood and JoJo Siwa. Also on the list: her 10th year promoting Billy Joel’s long series of Madison Square Garden shows. Rathwell calls the experience of working with the Rocket Entertainment team on the John tour the honor of a lifetime. “Since January 2022, when the touring business resumed at AEG, it has been the busiest and most exciting year and a half for me.”
Exec VP, Programming, NBC News
Rodriguez has one foot in traditional news programming and the other in the future of the format, overseeing “NBC Nightly News” as well as NBC News Now, the company’s free, ad-supported streaming video outlet. The latter now offers 11 hours of pro- gramming each weekday. “Building this out is what I would consider my biggest success,” she says. “You need to stay in lockstep with your audience, so you are there with them and you don’t get stuck doing things the way they’ve always been done.”
Exec VP, HBO Programming
It was not enough for Rosenstein to dominate the Emmy talk space with “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”: This past year her team also shepherded Jerrod Carmichael’s landmark standup special “Rothaniel,” which scored an Emmy. Her hefty slate continues to include “Real Time With Bill Maher” and the annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony special, plus the more recent drag-themed series “We’re Here.” A comedy docuseries with Carmichael is in the works. “Like everything he does, it invites a new perspective and tests traditional boundaries that we’re accustomed to seeing on television,” she says.
After decades as a stand-up comic, an actor and co-host of “The View,” Shepherd landed her own daytime talk show, and it is the top new series in national syndication. “Sherri,” from Debmar-Mercury, has been renewed by Fox stations through 2025, and has won the NAACP Image Award for talk series. “In an industry that used to believe that women turned 40 and they had nothing left to offer, I am living proof that women can defy the odds,” Shepherd says. “At 55, I’m hosting my own talk show, ‘Sherri,’ and I want woman of all ages to feel seen, be inspired and entertained for years and years to come.”
President, Ad Sales and Marketing, TelevisaUnivision
Speciale, who has worked both sides of the eternal negotiation between advertisers and TV networks, has for the past two years overseen U.S. ad sales at TelevisaUnivision, the Spanish-language media giant. She has added special pizazz to its Madison Avenue outreach and has worked to make it more of a must-buy alongside its English-language TV rivals. “One of my biggest priorities has been centered around closing the gap of brands that don’t speak directly to Hispanic consumers in Spanish,” she says. “There are way too many advertisers who are overlooking the impact of reaching this fast-growing consumer base — in culture and in language.”
President, UBS Arena; exec VP, Oak View Group East Coast
Stone leads UBS Arena, the $1.5 billion space that recently celebrated its first anniversary, having in that inaugural year grossed more than $60 million and hosted concerts by Harry Styles, Dua Lipa and Daddy Yankee. The facility is the new home of the New York Islanders hockey team, and Stone is also guiding the arena on sustainability. “UBS Arena will become a zero-waste venue, diverting at least 90% of waste from landfill, and on-site solar generation will become a part of the arena’s overall renewable energy plan,” she says. “Continuing to reach our sustainability initiative goals is top of the list.”
Shizuka “Shiz” Suzuki
VP, Global Brand Sponsorships and Experiential Marketing, American Express
Perfection is the last thing on Suzuki’s mind. “I think people are craving unfiltered, in-the-moment experiences that allow them to be their authentic selves,” she says of her team’s approach to talent partnerships and experiential activations. Take Harry Styles’ Pleasing pop-up shops or “Louisville by Jack Harlow,” a concert event that put a spotlight on small businesses. “We’re focused on tailoring our benefits and experiences to meet Gen Z where they’re at, and it’s working,” Suzuki says. “Last year, Gen Z and millennials accounted for 60% of new card-member sign-ups, with many citing things like entertainment and sports experiences as a reason for them to join Amex.”
Exec VP, Global Business Affairs, Sony Music Entertainment
In addition to developing Sony Music Entertainment’s Artists Forward initiative, which provides resources, support and remuneration pipelines for talent, Swidler helped facilitate the company’s $430 million acquisition of British distribution company AWAL, which she views as another pathway for artist engagement. But she is proudest of the $500 million purchase of Bruce Springsteen’s catalog: “This is an artist who has been with Sony-owned Columbia Records for his entire career and wants his legacy and future to stay with Columbia.” Anticipating growth of artificial intelligence startups, Swidler seeks “connection, creativity, strength and to lead with gratitude” as she works to protect the creative community.
Exec producer, “Good Morning America”
Executive producer of “GMA” since 2021, Swink presides over a competitive race in the a.m. news arena, chipping away at “Today’s” audience in the critical 25-to-54 demographic favored by advertisers, and raising tensions in the never-ending scrum between ABC and NBC. Swink takes pride in the show’s performance during the pandemic and big swings by anchors Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos and Michael Strahan, citing examples ranging from “Robin live in Kyiv to George’s interview with Sam Bankman-Fried, and Michael with Prince Harry to our recent live shows with Michael on Easter Island and Robin in New Zealand.”
President and COO, the Orchard
Under the Orchard’s direction, Bad Bunny’s “Un Verano Sin Ti” ended 2022 with 13 non-consecutive weeks at No. 1, a culture-shifting first for a non-English-language album. “That doesn’t happen with just one department, just one region. That was a massive team effort,” Theis says. “Being able to provide a global platform, and the freedom to communicate, is something that is game changing for the industry, because these artists are connecting.” At the core of it all is “the company by design,” and Theis’ conscious effort to recruit “more women — and beyond gender, people of different ethnicities and ages at global levels in all areas.”
Partner, Yorn Levine Barnes Krintzman Rubenstein Kohner Endlich & Gellman
Verma negotiated deals for international talent from Asia, South America and Europe and is especially proud of representing women who have signed big overall deals in the past year, including “From Scratch” creator Tembi Locke, comedian Amber Ruffin and “Bottoms” writer-actor Rachel Sennott. She revels in the fact that clients from international shows are being discovered around the world, citing Tanuj Chopra, director of “Delhi Crime” as one example. Her biggest challenge of the past year: “probably going back to the office and remembering how to use my in-office phone again — it’s been a while.”
The Women of Warner Bros. Discovery: Betsy Ayala, Karen Bronzo
Ayala: Head of Content, Food
Bronzo: CMO, U.S. Networks
Ayala and Bronzo played integral roles in Warner Bros. Discovery’s reorganizations following last year’s merger, with Ayala upped to her role upon the exit of Food Network chief Jane Latman in December. “The cable universe is shrinking, and we’re at that interesting pivot point between streaming and linear,” Ayala says. “So we have to be really smart about the things that we choose to focus on, and that’s the networks that really do drive viewership and revenue.” Bronzo, meanwhile, led her team through a restructuring that centralized operations across brands, helping to promote theatrical releases “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” and “Elvis,” in addition to linear priorities such as Shark Week. “One-offs like that can be really highly targeted and really fun,” Bronzo says, “and it gives the teams an opportunity to work on something different, to meet other people at the company and really figure out the best way to collaborate creatively to all of our benefits.”
President, Warner Music Experience
With the launch of Warner Music Experience’s FAST channels focusing on hip-hop, pop and rock, Weaver worked to facilitate fan connection with artists while providing new avenues for their advertising partners. Despite her additional oversight of merchandising operations and VIP experiences for more than 300 tours worldwide last year, Weaver insists each artist “requires a bespoke campaign” that merges content and commerce via growing communities both in person and online. “Roadblocks and obstacles are a given,” she says, “and the pandemic was devastating to our tour business, but against all odds we jumped back into action and delivered our highest volume year to date.”
Jessica Herman Weitz
Director of Artist Engagement, ACLU
Previously a talent booker for Greenwich Village’s The Bottom Line, a live event producer and a music manager, Weitz grew accustomed to dealing with problems that often brought out the worst in people. Now, in her role as ACLU’s liaison to the entertainment industry, she has no such agita. “I feel lucky every day to do what I do,” she says. “I see artists on their best days.” She’s driven ACLU’s celebrity ambassador project (recruiting Harry Belafonte and W. Kamau Bell) and co-directed an upcoming series of video shorts in which talent including Pamela Adlon raise awareness about book censorship.