[1] Judy McGrath
Chairman and CEO, MTV Networks

When Sumner Redstone axed Tom Freston in September, the first question on observers’ minds: Will McGrath stay…or follow her self-described “boss and buddy” out the door? McGrath told The New York Times after Freston’s ouster that she had to think it over, but agreed to stay on for the good of the company. While her new boss, Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman, is no doubt heaving a sigh of relief, McGrath is getting on with the business at hand: keeping her stable of channels the cash cow at Viacom while ramping up its digital content and presence in the entertainment world beyond linear television. She may not have MySpace or YouTube at her disposal, but she’s got the world’s most influential stable of youth-oriented brands—led by Nick, MTV, Comedy Central—and she’s not afraid to use them. That power makes McGrath our hands-down winner for No. 1 this year. [2] Anne Sweeney

Co-chair, Disney Media Networks, and president, Disney-ABC Television Group

Sweeney, like McGrath, is typically at the top of these kinds of power lists—and for good reason. As Disney’s top female exec, she’s responsible for the company’s global entertainment and news brands. Her portfolio includes a staggering stable of TV properties plus animation, distribution and international. Nowadays, her biggest goal is the company’s nonlinear growth, pushing digital opportunities at every turn, such as her recent deal to get ABC’s Lost on 3.2 million cell phones in the U.K. [3] Bonnie Hammer
President, USA Network and Sci Fi Channel

The rumor mill this summer speculated that Hammer was being groomed to take over NBCU’s TV division from beleaguered CEO Jeff Zucker. While that didn’t transpire (at least by press time), Hammer impressed her bosses at GE by hitting Labor Day with USA as the No. 1 basic cable network (thanks to WWE’s Raw on Mondays plus Monk, Psych, The 4400 and The Dead Zone) and Sci Fi’s out of this world hit Battlestar Galactica at No. 1 on Fridays. [4] Lynn Yaeger
EVP, corporate affairs, Time Warner Cable

The highest-ranked woman at Time Warner Cable’s corporate HQ in Stamford, Conn., Yaeger spearheads the company’s public affairs commitment and is a powerhouse on the Hill. Last year we called her “one of cable’s most effective lobbyists,” and she proved us right by helping seal the company’s acquisition of Adelphia with Comcast this year. In the coming year, she will smooth the pending spin-off of the cable unit from the Time Warner mother ship. [5] Jill Campbell
SVP, operations, Cox Communications

Campbell is the highest-ranking woman in cable operations in the U.S. and a key member of Cox’s senior executive team. She joined the company in 1982 as a director of communications in its Oklahoma City market and worked her way up through the ranks (and through its markets) to become VP and GM of its Las Vegas operations. Now responsible for 2.1 million customers in its Central division, she also chairs WICT’s national board. [6] Abbe Raven
President and CEO, A&E Television Networks

Insight Communications’ CEO Michael Willner credits Raven for “stepping into her predecessor’s shoes without missing a beat.” Besides goosing ratings and shoring up her executive team since taking over the company from her mentor, Nick Davatzes, in April 2005, Raven has expanded AETN’s global reach and generated buzz with hit series and by acquiring a series featuring hit men—The Sopranos. She continues Davatzes’ legacy by working closely with the NCTA on policy issues. [7] Mae Douglas
SVP, chief people officer, Cox Communications

We lauded Douglas in our Sept. 11 issue as the reason why Cox was named “best place to work” in our Aug. 28 issue. And we’ll say it again: Douglas is the secret sauce in Cox’s bundle of services. As wonderful as its voice, video and data products may be, Cox’s CPO is the glue that makes Cox’s employees proud to work for the company and thus pumped to tout its products and services. [8] Cyma Zarghami
President, Nickelodeon and MTV Networks Kids and Family Group

WICT’s 2006 Woman of the Year, Zarghami was promoted in January to her current position running Viacom’s powerhouse stable of kids-oriented TV, film, online and print businesses. Having been with the company 21 years, as she told Fortune last month her biggest challenge is “to figure out how to keep delivering great content. The next Ren & Stimpy, the next SpongeBob, the next Dora the Explorer might come from a short on [broadband channel] TurboNick.”  [9] Patricia Gottesman
EVP, product management and marketing, Cablevision

Lauded for her work (with Fox Cable Networks president Lindsay Gardner) co-chairing this year’s CTAM Summit, the 27-year Cablevision veteran has long won accolades within the company. Its top-ranked female executive rose through its ranks, starting as a local origination TV producer on Long Island to become regional SVP of operations. Now she’s in charge of Cablevision’s voice, video and broadband products, including the innovative ad-supported channels Optimum Autos and Optimum Homes. [10] Pamela Euler Halling
SVP, marketing/programming, Insight Communications

A 25-year veteran of the cable industry, Halling is a key member of Insight’s senior management team and oversees the company’s marketing, programming and ad sales efforts. A pioneer in VOD and interactive cable, this genial New Yorker brings an appreciation of programmers’ perspectives (having worked at Disney and Rainbow Media) and also serves on CTAM’s national board and NCTA’s convention committee. [11] Eloise Schmitz
SVP, finance and treasurer, Charter 

Credit (literally) Schmitz—whose primary task is to help the debt-laden Charter source and negotiate its debt agreements—with securing an additional $350 million in credit this year. Her financial acumen and the trust she has earned with its lenders and the ratings agencies has won the company some breathing room. Charter is now fully funded through ’07, enabling its expansion of must-have products including telephone. [12] Christina Norman
President, MTV

With all the top-down digital pressures at Viacom these days, the heat’s on Norman—as keeper of its flagship teen brand—to turn MTV into kids’ go-to TV and online hangout. (The linear piece seems easier, if recent hits such as Two-A-Days, about a high school football team’s antics on and off the field, is any indication.) MTV was also honored at this year’s Kaitz Foundation fundraiser in New York for its diversity outreach. [13] Debra Lee
President and CEO, BET Networks

Lee has tasked entertainment president Reginald Hudlin with reinvigorating the channel’s programming so she can push content onto new digital platforms including BET Mobile. The channel notched its highest ratings ever with Lil’ Kim’s Countdown to Lockdown series this year. New original programming this fall includes two sports-based reality series: one on pro footballer Vince Young, another on NBA star Doug Christie and his wife. Now in the works for 2007: its first animated series. [14] Betty Cohen
President and CEO, Lifetime Entertainment Services

It must have been daunting to fill Carole Black’s Manolo Blahniks. But 19 months later, Cohen is kicking up her heels. Hiring Susanne Daniels (see The Second 50) to put a fresh spin on movies (such as its Fantasia Barrino biopic) and series (like reality hit Cheerleader Nation), Cohen also champions Lifetime’s public affairs commitment. Witness President Bush’s signing of legislation inspired by its Golden Globe-nominated 2005 miniseries, Human Trafficking. [15] Gerry Laybourne
Founder and CEO, Oxygen

Laybourne’s vision for Oxygen as a converged TV/Web-based brand was ahead of its time. Now, Laybourne’s hybrid plan is the very model of a modern television network. Now in 70 million homes, Oxygen is the only network startup to pass 65 million subs in the last decade. An ardent lobbyist on behalf of cable, Laybourne is the only programmer (and woman) member of cable’s elite Entrepreneur’s Club. [16] Jane Root
EVP and General Manager, Discovery, Military, Science Channels

At home, she’s known as “Molly’s mum.” But at Discovery’s worldwide HQ in Silver Spring, Md., she’s known as the dynamo who posted a prime-time household rating increase of 11% in September at the company’s flagship Discovery channel while steering three other networks. The petite Brit and BBC vet is a “mythbuster” in her own right—although we’d hesitate to say that hers is one of the “dirty jobs” in cable. [17] Amy Banse
President, Comcast Interactive

As Comcast’s broadband content and acquisitions czar since late last year, Banse executes the company’s new media mantra—which was formerly “On Demand,” and is now “cross-platform content” that will make Comcast “the Amazon of video on the Web” as COO Steve Burke told a Wall Street Journal conference earlier this year. Secretary on the board of trustees for WICT, Banse was honored by Girls Inc. this year for being an inspirational role model to young women. [18] Sue Ann Hamilton
EVP, programming, Charter

TCI vet Hamilton has been cutting programming deals for the No. 4 MSO since 2003, when she was recruited by Maggie Bellville (No. 50) and former Charter president Carl Vogel. Having three young kids at home may have helped her calm frayed programmers’ nerves and unlock any arms-crossed demands, and no doubt helped her sign a 10-year deal with ESPN, one of her first achievements after joining the Charter team. [19] Sheila Willard
SVP, government affairs, Comcast

Willard nudged Comcast and Time Warner Cable’s Adelphia purchase through 3,298 hoops: the number of local franchising authorities who had to be convinced the acquisition would be a boon to their communities. Since the deal closed she has been able to focus on public affairs initiatives such as locally produced programming for linear and VOD platforms. One recent L.O. highlight: Comcast’s MetroBeat initiative in Denver, which launched last November, and last month won four regional Emmy Awards. [20] Debora Wilson
President, The Weather Channel Companies

Wilson was one of the first cable programmers to “get” the Web, parlaying Weather.com into a top online destination and expanding into mobile, broadband and interactive products. After spearheading the first $1 million donation for Katrina victims last year, she’s following up this year with a consumer emergency readiness campaign. She’s also on the CablePac board of directors, chairs the Online Publishers Association and won WICT Atlanta’s Woman of the Year Inspiration Award. [21] Christine Driessen
EVP and CFO, ESPN

No deal at ESPN gets made without Driessen’s approval. Besides its scrappy negotiations with NFL, NASCAR, MLB—and the fact that she oversees all of the company’s financial operations, encompassing more than 50 discrete businesses worldwide—she’s got her work cut out keeping Disney’s bean-counters happy. Driessen also sits on the board of the Women’ Sports Foundation and Fordham University, and on the advisory board of the World Congress of Sports. [22] Kathleen Mayo
EVP, customer service, Cablevision

Lou Dobbs would love Kip, as she’s better known in Bethpage. Her first order of business upon joining the company in 2001 was to banish outsourcing of customer service calls and bringing everything in-house into one virtual call center. Responsible for more than 7,000 employees, she oversees customer service and installations, providing logistical support to Pat Gottesman (No. 9) and her group so they can focus on product marketing. [23] Robin Sangston
VP, assistant general counsel, Cox Communications

WICT’s 2006 Woman to Watch is also a woman on the rise at Cox HQ in Atlanta. As head of its legal department she supervises all litigation and deals, including Cox’s stake in the Sprint/MSOs joint venture, in addition to all contracts, employee and related legal matters. As WICT’s national chair in 2005, she has championed other women executives in the industry. [24] Lauren Zalaznick
President, Bravo

Turning Project Runway into a runaway (pun intended) success story this year, Bravo snagged its highest-rated third quarter and its most-watched telecast ever, attracting a record 5.4 million viewers for the season three finale on Oct. 18. Bravo attracted almost as many (5.3 million) unique online visitors in the third quarter; Zalaznick is making Bravo a digital pioneer by launching unique broadband content and original channels such as BrilliantButCancelled.com and its latest Web foray, OutZoneTV.com. [25] Lynne Costantini
SVP and chief business affairs officer, Time Warner Cable

Melinda Witmer
SVP and chief programming officer, Time Warner Cable

With a void to fill once Time Warner Cable EVP of programming Fred Dressler retires next month, Time Warner Cable promoted Witmer (formerly its chief counsel for programming and also a former executive at HBO) in October to fill its top programming post. Costantini also got a bump upstairs—she was promoted from SVP of programming to top business affairs executive— where she works closely with the company’s technology and new product development groups. [26] Italia Commisso Weinand
SVP, programming and human resources, Mediacom

An outspoken advocate for women and minorities at her own company and beyond, Weinand walks her talk as a board member for WICT, Cable Positive and Emma Bowen—and by nominating executives for this list and our 2006 Most Influential Minorities in Cable list. She also rallied the cable industry this past year behind Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Her contributions to the industry include setting cable franchising standards 20 years ago that still stand today. [27] Amy Tykeson
President and CEO, Bend Cable Communications

One of the few women presidents of an MSO, Tykeson took her father’s legacy at the family’s cable operations and ran with it, not unlike another baton-passing family we know named Roberts. An innovator who’s been spotted at past National Shows personally trying out various cutting-edge cable innovations, Tykeson brought phone, broadband and VOD to rural Oregon. The next technology on this NCTA board member’s game plan: digital simulcast. [28] Nomi Bergman
EVP, strategy and development, Advance/Newhouse Communications

Her dad (Advance/Newhouse chairman and CEO, Bob Miron) may run the company, but Bergman got her chops at Time Warner Cable’s Charlotte, N.C., division and plays an integral role in the success of the family’s cable business by spearheading the company’s broadband, advanced technologies and strategic initiatives. The former computer programmer is equally at home in cable’s tech side at CableLabs and SCTE committees as she is in her involvement with WICT, CTAM and the NCTA. [29] Cathy Avgiris
SVP and General Manager, Voice Services, Comcast

Avgiris is the reason why the letters C-D-V are as common as V-O-D at Comcast. Comcast Digital Voice is now in more than 20 markets, reaching more than 25.6 million homes. Since taking over telephone service in June 2005, she helped the company add more voice customers in the first quarter of this year than all of last year combined. Her 2006 goal: sign up an additional 1.4 million phone subscribers by Dec. 31. [30] Mary Meduski
EVP and CFO, Suddenlink Communications

Meduski’s biggest fan is her boss, Jerry Kent, who says, “Watch her as she shakes up the industry—she will make an impact as the CFO of the eighth-largest MSO…she is second to none.” That’s high praise, and not lightly earned. With more than 20 years in the telecommunications business, this past summer she spearheaded raising $4 billion of capital by closing the company’s cable acquisitions. As Kent comments, “Enough said.” [31] Carolyn Strauss
President, entertainment, HBO

We always give Strauss the benefit of the doubt. When we heard that Tom Hanks’ production company was developing a series about polygamists in Utah, we were skeptical—until we got hooked on Big Love. So while we’re still cussing over the cancellation of Deadwood earlier this year, we’ll trust Strauss when she promises that David Milch’s next series (John From Cincinnati) will win us back. [32] Wonya Lucas
EVP and General Manager, The Weather Channel Networks

Lucas has had a busy year: She launched two new personality-driven shows this fall, with Abrams & Bettes: Beyond the Forecast (co-hosted by Stephanie Abrams and Mike Bettes) in prime time and The Climate Code With Dr. Heidi Cullen in a weekly Sunday perch to educate viewers about climate change. Like her boss, Debora Wilson (No. 20), Lucas has been pushing multiplatform efforts at the channel, including contributing content to Time Warner Cable’s Quick Clips broadband TV test. [33] Judy Girard
President, HGTV

Brooke Bailey Johnson
President, The Food Network

Johnson inherited Food in April 2004 when Girard shipped off to Knoxville, Tenn., to run its since-sold Shop At Home business. Given the keys to Scripps’ flagship HGTV brand last November, Girard faces a big challenge: as her press release trumpeted, “Savvy TV Exec Has Eye on Cable’s Elite Top 10 for HGTV.” Johnson, meanwhile, has steered Food away from celebrity chefs to “just real folks” like Paula Deen (see sidebar). [34] Susan Swain
EVP/co-COO, C-SPAN

Besides steering on-air programming and off-air marketing at TV’s most trusted political news source, Swain has been exploring nonlinear content for mobile and VOD platforms along with HD and original Web content to keep the house that Brian Lamb built fresh and engaging—particularly to younger viewers in the lead up to the midterm elections. One of C-SPAN’s first hires, the former reporter is a veteran public affairs booster at CTPAA, CTAM and other industry groups. [35] Laureen Ong
President, National Geographic Channel

Ong’s accolades in the past year include winning a Vision Award from the Washington, D.C., chapter of Women and Film and Video in June and being named WICT’s Woman of the Year for 2005, a title that she will hand over this week to Cyma Zarghami (No. 8). On the work front, the ardent spin cyclist has been riding high with hit series The Dog Whisperer and, earlier this year, the headline-making The Gospel of Judas. [36] Dale Hopkins
COO, G4

Hopkins has been a leader in starting linear cable networks—besides G4, she was part of the launch teams behind E!, Style and CNBC—and nonlinear brand extensions. Responsible for creating E! Online in the mid-1990s, at G4 she has embraced digital entertainment by spearheading broadband, interactive, mobile and VOD content. She also brokered the channel’s recent YouTube deal to distribute its cheeky Star Trek 2.0 spots to millions of fans on the Web. [37] Michele Ganeless
EVP and General Manager, Comedy Central

A year ago, Ganeless took a flier on Stephen Colbert’s ability to keep viewers sticking around after The Daily Show, a time slot that had been floundering until Jon Stewart’s protégé claimed the wee hours as his dorky own. With Comedy Central’s content a downloader’s delight on YouTube and BitTorrent and with a broadband video channel (Motherload) of her own to promote, Ganeless’ challenge: Get young viewers to stop pirating and start tuning in or logging on. [38] Kim Martin
EVP and General Manager, WE tv

Martin is pushing WE to ramp up its original development slate, this year hiring Discovery Networks veterans Steve Cheskin (as SVP of programming) and Gena McCarthy (as VP of development and production) with a mandate to produce buzz-generating originals. The goal: Air up to 40% original on-air programming by the end of this year. Recent premieres such as Unwrapping Macy’s and Hair Trauma are inching the women’s programmer ever closer to that goal. [39] Salaam Coleman Smith
EVP, Style Network

This week Style launches Split Ends, its hair-raising reality series that, like WE’s Hair Trauma, hopes to elevate the female-skewing programmer above the cable clutter. Helping Smith achieve that aim: newly promoted Comcast Entertainment Group president Ted Harbert, whose supersized role (adding G4 to his docket) means greater autonomy for his E!xecutives, including Smith, to really make an impact on their brands. [40] Deborah Blackwell
SVP and General Manager, SoapNet

We always get a chuckle out of SOAPnet’s tongue-in-chic affiliate marketing campaigns, including its retro lunchbox for the silver anniversary this month of General Hospital’s Luke and Laura wedding. The Harvard MBA (and Anne Sweeney protégé) is also soliciting user-generated content this fall, inviting college kids to submit original video to a SoapU microsite by Dec. 31 with a chance to win $20,000 worth of suds: producing an original soap for her broadband service, SOAPnetic. [41] Janice Arouh
SVP, network distribution and services, Hallmark

Bridget Baker

EVP, distribution, NBC Universal Cable

Nicole Browning
President, affiliate sales and marketing, MTV Networks

Louise Bryson
EVP, distribution and affiliate business development, Lifetime

Lisa Gersh
President and COO, Oxygen

Tonia O’Connor
EVP, distribution, Gemstar-TV Guide International

This year we tip our hats to some of cable’s most respected (and successful) distribution wranglers. Their feat: helping their respective brands gain traction, subscribers and clout. Witness Browning’s championing of MTVN’s gay and lesbian service, Logo, on expanded basic and Gersh’s multiyear agreement with Dish Network this year that added 12 million Oxygen subs overnight. They’re also blazing a trail for other women. Besides individual public affairs commitments, such as Lifetime’s gamut of issues for Bryson (also EVP and GM of Lifetime Movie Network), they are all WICT-boosters, where Arouh, Gersh and Baker serve as board members. [42] Suzanne Keenan
SVP, customer service and Comcast University, Comcast

Comcast EVP of operations Dave Watson credits Keenan, a former nuclear scientist, with making 225 million “deals” each year—that’s the number of customer interactions that her customer care team handles. Her efforts (including the “Think Customer First” campaign) helped boost the number of “extremely satisfied” customer responses 28% last year, according to a third-party auditor. She also oversees field technical operations and Comcast U, the company’s training and development arm for its 60,000 employees. [43] Jennifer Gaiski
VP, content acquisition, Comcast

It speaks volumes that one of Gaiski’s nominators—who oversees distribution for a major group of cable networks—describes her as “a great mentor.” An ability to understand programmers’ needs is no mean feat given the often intense negotiations that precede any deal for licensed cable content. Gaiski also manages programming deals for Comcast’s joint ventures with independent operators (Bresnan, Insight, Midcontinent Cable and US Cable) and serves on the board of Philly’s WICT chapter. [44] Patty McCaskill
SVP, programming, Suddenlink Communications

A 26-year cable veteran, McCaskill is highly regarded as the proverbial “tough but fair” negotiator. Since joining Jerry Kent at what was then called Cequel III/Cebridge Connections in Feb. 2003, she has weathered some stormy negotiations including one with Sinclair Broadcasting this summer. Yet she has never had a channel go dark—and despite long hours hammering out deals, somehow finds time to serve on the boards of CTAM, Cable Positive and the NCTC. [45] Maureen Smith
EVP and General Manager, Animal Planet

Steve Irwin’s death in September was mourned worldwide—and Smith rose to the occasion with an on-air and off-air response that his family and fans could be proud of. Following the demise of Animal Planet’s beloved Crocodile Hunter, she marshaled a televised tribute, a memorial garden at Discovery headquarters and committed to keeping Irwin’s message of wildlife protection, education and conservation on the air—and living on through the affectionately named “Crikey Fund.” [46] Chris Tancredi
EVP, Music Choice

Tancredi has pioneered new advertising models for VOD since joining Music Choice in 1989. For her role in helping to propel Music Choice to its status as the No. 1 free VOD service in the U.S. and for expanding its content to broadband and mobile platforms, she was promoted from SVP in May to take on greater responsibility as EVP, and now oversees marketing, promotions, creative, research, public relations, business development and ad sales. [47] Nancy Dubuc
SVP, nonfiction programming and new media content, A&E Television Networks

Abbe Raven (No. 6) gave Dubuc her vote of confidence in June with an expanded role that adds History Channel program development to her bailiwick, along with new media content across AETN. She continues to spearhead nonfiction series at A&E, where her development slate has included Rollergirls, Dallas Swat, Inked, Criss Angel: Mindfreak, Intervention and Gene Simmons: Family Jewels. Dubuc also oversees the A&E IndieFilms documentary banner. [48] Kay Monigold
President and COO, Buford Media Group

Monigold is responsible for day-to-day operations at Buford, a Tyler, Texas-based company that was co-founded in 1999 by cable veteran Ben Hooks, now its CEO. CableWorld’s 2005 Independent Operator of the Year, Buford Media’s cable division, Allegiance Communications, now serves 70,000 subscribers. Besides serving rural cable customers in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri, Monigold (who has more than 20 years experience in cable) also serves as a board member for the American Cable Association. [49] Pandit Wright
Senior EVP, Human Resources, Discovery Communications Inc.

A member of Discovery’s Executive Committee since 1999, Wright oversees more than 5,000 DCI employees worldwide in addition to supervising the Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership and all administration and HR functions across its 29 branded businesses. The Wright stuff is why Discovery was the No. 1 workplace (programmer) for women in WICT’s 2005 PAR Initiative study and one of Fortune’s “100 Top Companies to Work For.” [50] Ann Carlsen
CEO, Carlsen Resources

Jeannine Sommers
SVP, search management, Carlsen Resources

Michele James
Founder, James & Co.

Maggie Bellville
CarterBaldwin Executive Search Services

Charter Communications’ former EVP and COO Maggie Bellville (who we’re proud to feature in these pages), the women of Carlsen Resources and Time Warner veteran James help explain why we had hundreds of nominations for “top women” to sift through this year. As executive recruiters, they shape the future of individual companies, and the industry, through senior level searches that place the best people (including many names on this list) into top leadership positions. They’re also visionaries in their own right, mentoring women and men to realize their career goals with an eye to what skills the industry needs tomorrow. Check out the rest of CableWorld’s 2006 Most Powerful Women issue – click here. NOTE: To order copies of this special issue, please call (800) 777-5006 or send an email to clientservices@accessintel.com. Please note that supplies are limited.

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