2010 Most Powerful Women in Cable: What’s Changed?

Each year as we create this magazine honoring cable’s women, our staff looks at the previous year’s edition.

Inevitably, we’re tempted to compare the current condition of women in cable versus 12 months earlier. We also think about the industry climate, popular culture, politics, the economy, media’s portrayal of women. Call it an early retrospective on the year.

On the face of it, little seems to have changed.

While programmers can point to several women running things, one of them, BET chief Debra Lee, believes "even on the programming side there’s a lot more that needs to be done." Women are lacking in C suites, she says.

On the operator side, the duo that was in charge at large cable distributors in ’09 remains unchanged: Nomi Bergman is Bright House Networks’ President (the #10 largest MSO) and Colleen Abdoulah heads WOW! (#15).

As we went to press last year, U.S. unemployment was nearing 10%. While cable fared better than most, layoffs were a daily concern. That’s changed only slightly; layoffs remain a fear, unemployment hovers at 9%.

But there have been positives. WICT’s membership has never been larger. BET’s Lee sees more leadership opportunities for women resulting from mergers of MSOs with programmers; there’s a big one pending now. The number of U.S. women with six-figure incomes is rising at a much faster pace than it is for men, new census figures show. Women now outnumber men at nearly every level of higher education.

We’re also seeing better images of women in media. Yes, it’s called Mad Men, but AMC’s hit was notable this season for its stories of women in a sexist era.

On premium cable, we’ve seen the addition of a strong if flawed female character, Showtime’s excellent Nurse Jackie, played by Edie Falco. In a supporting role, there’s no stronger female than Mrs. Margaret Schroeder (Kelly Macdonald, pictured above). She’s the small but mighty widow who directly confronts her financial supporter, a powerful but crooked Prohibition-era politician, on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. Ironically, direct confrontation was something Falco’s former character, Carmela Soprano, could never quite manage with her Tony. Here’s hoping more cable outlets directly confront the paucity of women in C suites.

Speaking of changes, this book has a few. We’ve expanded the list of women in technology that we prepare with WICT. Larger too is our alphabetized list of influential women. We think you’ll find these are changes for the better.

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