1. Anne Sweeney, Co-Chair, Disney Media Networks, & President, Disney-ABC Television Group
The co-winner of this year’s Distinguished Vanguard Award for Leadership (with Showtime’s Matt Blank, and presented by NCTA at The Cable Show), Sweeney is, practically speaking, a cultural leader. She oversees Disney-ABC’s cable portfolio (Disney Channel, ABC Family, SOAPnet, Toon Disney), encompassing franchises like High School Musical, Camp Rock, Hannah Montana, Kyle XY and The Secret Life of the American Teenager — just part of the content mix that reaches 1 billion people worldwide. She has the final word on all deals, and works directly with cable partners to create strategic opportunities such as ABC’s fast-forward-disabled VOD offering through Cox.
2. Judy McGrath, Chairman & CEO, MTV Networks
Cable Hall of Famer McGrath oversees all of MTVN’s cable channels, including MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, its gaming division and its portfolio of Web sites. She was one of the programming execs at this year’s Cable Show facing tough questions about Web content and the effect it has on operator/programmer relations. "I think we’re pretty careful about where we put our content to keep your interest in mind as well as ours," she told cable operators at a general session on convergence. The growing popularity of MTVN’s online content, such as Jon Stewart’s Daily Show clips, will only make McGrath a more central figure in this delicate dance.
3. Bonnie Hammer, President, Cable Entertainment and Cable Studio, NBC Universal
Earlier this year Hammer was promoted for leading USA to the No. 1 position in all basic cable for the past two years and for extending the worldwide reach of Sci Fi. Her reward: a multiyear deal that includes oversight of original scripted content for the company’s cable group and external cable channels, as well as leadership of the Emerging Networks group, which includes Chiller, Sleuth and Universal HD. Since taking the reins at USA, Hammer has launched some of the biggest ratings successes in cable, including Monk and Psych. She also attempts to pass on her magic touch to others as a mentor for WICT members.
4. Andrea Wong, President & CEO, Lifetime Networks
Wong’s highest-profile deal this year was with the Weinstein Company for its hit Bravo series, Project Runway. The show’s premiere on Lifetime is being held up in court, but even that merely serves to highlight Wong’s boldness as a programming exec. Under her leadership, Lifetime’s W18-49 total-day ratings have risen 20%. It’s not all ratings and dollars, though: Just last month, Wong and Lifetime received the American Horizon Award from the Media Institute for the programmer’s advocacy on behalf of women’s health.
5. Abbe Raven, President & CEO, A&E Television Networks
This past spring, Raven, who oversees seven cable networks including A&E, History, Bio Channel and History International, announced that AETN would spend $650 million on new content for its networks and multiple platforms. She also made a deal with the Library of Congress to use its content across History’s platforms, providing millions of students with access to a vast trove of historical content. Raven’s networks also launched Recovery Project, an addiction-oriented initiative.
6. Debra Lee, Chairman & CEO, BET Networks
As co-chair (with Mediacom chief Rocco Commisso) of The Cable Show in New Orleans, a high-profile leader got an even bigger stage this year, at least in terms of her industry peers. But as overseer of a household-name brand that serves African-Americans and worldwide consumers of black culture, the Sazerac-swilling cable hordes hardly needed any kind of introduction. Lee also serves on the corporate board of directors of Revlon, Marriott, Eastman Kodak and Washington Gas & Light.
7. Cyma Zarghami, President, Nickelodeon and MTVN Kids and Family
Some things you can just depend on year after year: The Mets will collapse in September, you’re not going to get around to finally reading Ulysses and Nickelodeon is going to be sitting on top or near the top of the weekly ratings for total programming day. Kids just won’t quit on this SpongeBob character, and they’ve more than warmed up to Carly, star of the multiplatform hit iCarly. Nick vet Zarghami oversees this profitable playground — all Nick-related TV businesses, in fact.
8. Melinda Witmer, EVP & Chief Programming Officer, Time Warner Cable
Witmer, who heads programming for the second-largest MSO in the U.S., is, like her predecessor, the late, legendary Fred Dressler, a formidable negotiator. But just because she and her team negotiate content deals worth billions of dollars doesn’t mean she lets the unavoidable conflicts get to her personally. Sure, things have gotten more complicated since Fred’s day, what with the increase in content distribution methods. But she’d rather offer to "rethink" a deal than launch heavy objects through space.
9. Jill Campbell, SVP, Eastern Division Operations, Cox
Campbell, who oversees operations for Cox’s Eastern division systems, is getting some serious peer recognition this year: Women in Cable Telecommunications is honoring her as its 2008 Woman of the Year, and will salute her at its benefit gala in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 20. Now in her 26th year with Cox, Campbell is among the industry’s leaders on the operations side of cable. That side of cable traditionally hasn’t been populated by many women at the highest executive levels, so you can imagine how good a mentor she must be for her fellow WICT members.
10. Nomi Bergman, President, Bright House Networks
This past summer Bergman spoke on a panel on Capitol Hill about the opportunities cable offers women and, specifically, about WICT’s annual PAR Initiative, which studies pay equity, advancement and resources for women. As the only female president of one of the top 10 U.S. cable operators, she’s got the clout to help push through pay equity initiatives. She also helps shape industry policies and technical direction through her leadership and participation in CableLabs and NCTA.
11. Amy Banse, President, Comcast Interactive Media, SVP, Comcast Corp.
As president of CIM, Banse is responsible for developing and operating online and cross-platform entertainment and media businesses, including Comcast.net, which serves as the main portal for Comcast’s high-speed Internet users. Earlier this year, Banse launched Fancast, which enables users to watch, manage and find entertainment content wherever it is available — on Fancast, TV, online, on DVD or in theaters. She also sits on the board of trustees of the Children’s Scholarship Fund Philadelphia, and is a WICT mentor.
12. Eloise Schmitz, EVP and CFO, Charter
Schmitz was recently rewarded with the CFO title for her successful management of Charter’s balance sheet. Over the past 24 months, she directed and executed financial transactions totaling more than $10 billion. These transactions have enabled Charter to maintain its liquidity, restructure debt maturities and access lines of credit. Her knowledge of the financial industry and negotiating skills have been invaluable to Charter during its comeback over the last couple of years. Her contacts in banking and credit have proven to be a critical resource to Charter.
13. Cathy Avgiris, SVP & GM, Voice Services, Comcast Cable
Avgiris runs Comcast Digital Voice, the fastest-growing business at Comcast and now the nation’s fourth-largest residential phone company. In less than three years the service has grown to reach more than 5.6 million customers; from 2006 to 2007, revenue for digital voice increased 85% to $1.8 billion. Under Avgiris’ management, Comcast has been rolling out major enhancements to CDV service this year, including universal caller ID, and an enhanced cordless phone, enabling customers to access e-mail and view and select voicemail. Avgiris sits on the board and serves as a second-year mentor of WICT’s Philadelphia chapter and is president of a local women’s philanthropic organization.
14. Bridget Baker, President, Network TV Distribution, NBC Universal
Baker, a 20-year NBCU vet, oversees the distribution of a multibillion dollar television portfolio — including USA Network, CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, Sci Fi, Oxygen, Telemundo, Chiller, mun2, Sleuth and Universal HD — that reaches 600 million multi-platform subscribers. Most recently, she handled distribution of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She’s a hands-on deal-maker who leads a team of top negotiators in securing retransmission consent for all NBC and Telemundo owned-and-operated stations. In May, she led a volunteer effort to revitalize Project Lazarus and Kent House in New Orleans, in conjunction with Cable Positive, at the 2008 Cable Show. At the show she was named a Cable TV Pioneer.