The 20 Most Powerful Women in Global Entertainment - Hollywood Reporter
Oct 10, 2021 7 mins, 21 secs
Female producers, studio executives and channel bosses are seeing a historic opportunity to capitalize on the seismic changes wrought by the #MeToo movement to push for true inclusion and diversity across the entertainment business.

Nevertheless, the glass ceiling smashers on The Hollywood Reporter‘s annual list of the world’s most powerful female entertainment execs are united in their passion to continue to fight for systemic industry changes and to inspire younger women to, as Rola Bauer, president of MGM International TV Productions, puts it, “seek acknowledgment and credit for their work [and] not get left out of the narrative.”.

Nigerian producer and television pioneer Abudu made history in 2020 when her pan-African entertainment banner EbonyLife Media signed a multi-title deal with Netflix, making it the first African production company to enter into such an agreement with the global streamer.

Earlier this year, Sony Pictures Television’s international production division extended its exclusive deal with EbonyLife, giving the studio first pick of the scripted television projects intended for global audiences that have been created, originated or developed by Abudu’s company?

Abudu, who is often called “Africa’s Oprah,” says she’s accustomed to being underestimated and hopes her against-the-odds success will encourage the next generation of female executives to “dream big and be bold with your vision.” Ever the nuts-and-bolts producer, however, Abudu’s first piece of advice for newcomers is to “focus on production quality — find the best technicians and negotiate!”.

President, International Television Productions at MGM (Germany).

Stepping down as co-head of Tandem and managing director at StudioCanal, Bauer joined MGM as president of international television productions and, in the midst of a global pandemic, built up the studio’s global drama slate.

A self-confessed “news junkie,” Bauer looks to the wider world to guide projects that her team develops for a global audience, always with an eye for “stories still untold” and an ear for underrepresented voices: “The fact is, global audiences want and need their emotions and lives reflected onscreen more than ever, and it’s our responsibility as storytellers to give them that diversity … whether through fiction or reality.”.

A 30-year veteran of the industry, Creighton has also been instrumental in pushing through gender balance measures in Canada — women now make up just over half of the country’s working writers and producers, as well as 36 percent of directors on CMF-funded TV projects — and promoting diversity with schemes that work directly with underrepresented communities.

As co-founder and co-head, with partner Ramón Campos, of prolific Spanish production company Bambú, Fernández-Valdés has been at the forefront of the international television revolution.

Bambú’s period melodramas Grand Hotel (2010-2013) and Velvet (2013-2016) were among the first non-English-language series to break through worldwide, and the company has helped ignite the global streaming explosion by signing a first-look deal with Netflix (Bambú’s Cable Girls was Netflix’s first Spanish original) and inking with Apple TV+ for that company’s first Spanish original, the Miami-set thriller Now and Then.

French industry veteran Frot-Coutaz made waves in May when Comcast’s European TV giant Sky named her CEO of its production arm Sky Studios (Gangs of London, A Discovery of Witches).

“Sky is a company that I have always admired as a content maker, as a partner and as a consumer,” she explained in announcing her move.

When it comes to female representation and equity, she tells THR, “we must acknowledge that we are never done,” but she is “encouraged that the industry is changing for the better.” In terms of diversity and equality, she argues COVID has allowed people “to truly see our colleagues as individuals with their own personal challenges,” meaning that “in some ways, it’s been a great leveler, and I hope that remains.”.

Asked what advice she’d give to women starting out in the industry, she says, “Find ‘your’ team — from colleagues, informal network, collaborators — whatever form it needs to take.”.

The upcoming Claire Danes- and Tom Hiddleston-fronted drama The Essex Serpent, from Top of the Lake and The Power of the Dog banner See-Saw Films, in 2020 marked her first order, while Hunt recently made Sharon Horgan — whose breakout Catastrophe she commissioned at Channel 4 — Apple TV+’s first big-name European signing, with a comedy-drama now in the works.

With a slate that includes Netflix’s Slasher, dog-and-cop family series Hudson & Rex and the long-running CBC period procedural Murdoch Mysteries, Toronto-based Shaftesbury, founded by Jennings in 1987, has established itself as a global leader in small-screen drama, something AMC Networks recognized when it invested in the company earlier this year through a production partnership that will see Jennings’ shingle develop content for the network.

“It was a conscious decision on our part to continue to grow our company as a global content provider,” notes Jennings, who regards fellow female-led Canadian companies, like Jennifer Twiner-McCarron’s publicly traded Thunderbird Entertainment Group and the recently launched Cameron Pictures from Gemini Award-winning screenwriters Tassie and Amy Cameron, as prime examples of how female executives are taking the lead north of the border.

She was brought on by Netflix as one of the company’s first content executives based in Asia — and her rise since then has been nothing short of meteoric.

Since March 2019, the New Zealand-born Marsh has been head of StudioCanal, the international television production and distribution arm of French giant Canal+ and one of Europe’s leading small-screen producers.

The global content boom has been good to StudioCanal, which, under Marsh’s leadership, now produces more than 200 hours of new drama programming every year through its network of award-winning production companies, including Germany’s Tandem (Shadowplay), Brit-based RED Production (Years and Years) and Spain’s Bambú Producciones (Cable Girls).

While she may not have gotten that position, Moore — then director of BBC content and head of the flagship BBC One channel — was soon upped to the BBC board and named chief content officer, a promotion that made the already highly regarded exec one of the most powerful figures in global TV, expanding her remit to include not just overseeing all of the BBC’s network TV channels, but radio, education and children’s content as well

“As an industry we’re getting there onscreen,” she says, “but now we need to focus our energy offscreen and challenge every production to do more to promote diversity and equality at every level.”

Under her leadership as Fremantle’s first American head, the creative powerhouse behind the American Idol and America’s Got Talent franchises has continued its push into drama (The Mosquito Coast, The New Pope and No Man’s Land) to grow the company’s global footprint

In April, Fremantle made headlines with a deal that saw it take full control of Tel Aviv-based Abot Hameiri, the production company behind Netflix hit drama Shtisel

“We have an exciting and ambitious growth plan,” Mullin tells THR, but adds she is “equally focused on our [company] culture.” After all, “without a great culture, growth is stifled and we may lose what makes us special — our spirit of creativity and entrepreneurship.” Mullin has served as CEO since succeeding Cécile Frot-Coutaz in September 2018 after holding the same role at FremantleMedia North America

As the boss of global television sales giant Banijay Rights, a job she took over in April 2020, the Australian-born Payne oversees a massive catalog of iconic TV brands and formats, from Survivor and MasterChef to Peaky Blinders and Black Mirror

Coming up through the ranks — she spent two decades at reality-TV pioneer Endemol Shine, starting at Australian division Southern Star and eventually taking over as CEO of Endemol Shine International — Payne says she often encountered an “old boys’ club” mentality along with “unwelcome, condescending behavior,” attitudes she says have “thankfully mostly disappeared” from today’s TV business

A firm believer in creating strong support networks for women in entertainment, Payne sees it as her corporate responsibility to ensure that Banijay has a “permanent focus” on improving diversity and equality and creating the “right paths for those underrepresented to find ways into our industry.” She says her working-class origins inform her approach

As for increased equality in the industry, Sulebakk says her Danish roots give her unique perspective on the changes that still need to occur

streamers has begun to put pressure on Wowow’s model, Washio has headed up the company’s diversification into theatrical distribution, acquiring titles like pandemic drama Song Bird, produced by Michael Bay, and also arranging for Wowow to co-produce high-profile Hollywood series content, like HBO Max’s forthcoming Japan-set yakuza thriller Tokyo Vice, directed by Michael Mann

When it comes to increased diversity in the industry, Washio says there is still plenty of work to be done

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