The Hollywood Reporter has released its annual list of the 35 most powerful people in New York media. A list exclusive to New York might seem a bit stuffy, but it acknowledges the media capital of the world. Trying to argue otherwise would be a stretch in credibility.
As could be expected, THR‘s list is populated with names well known as major influencers and decision-makers in the industry. Network presidents and chairmen, executive producers of news programs and morning shows, newspaper and magazine executive editors, television news anchors who occupy prominent time slots. There are even some names you might not expect to be on such a list, like Alec Baldwin and Samantha Bee.
But a list of powerful people in media should certainly include executives in charge of sports networks and broadcasting, with the massive ratings and billion-dollar rights deals that they oversee. Accordingly, THR has three of the biggest names in sports television among its list of power players. ESPN president John Skipper, CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus and NBC broadcasting and sports chairman Mark Lazarus.
Skipper, as has been well documented among every outlet that covers sports media and business, is fighting the wave of cord-cutters that has resulted in significant subscriber losses and reduced revenues at ESPN. But the heavy investment in live sports gives the network content that viewers can’t leave on their DVRs to watch later. ESPN also has the prestige of producing an Academy Award winner with its O.J.: Made in America documentary, one that compelled the Oscars to change its rules for what sorts of films are eligible for consideration.
As McManus said to THR, game broadcasts are “the best must-carry weapon to motivate people to watch programming live on television.” That would certainly explain his network’s aggressive pursuit of rights to a share of the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package to go with its regular Sunday broadcasts, as well as NCAA Tournament coverage that makes CBS must-watch during the month of March.
And at NBC, Lazarus has Sunday Night Football along with its split of Thursday Night Football to create a primetime ratings juggernaut. Additionally, the network’s Olympics coverage that dominate during the Summer and Winter Games across an increasing number of networks under the NBC-Universal umbrella as well as streaming platforms.
THR’s list is largely full of fluffy quotes and trivia from the personalities that make up each entry. Naturally, the entire venture is also intended to provoke discussion. But the list is intriguing for who’s included (Michael Strahan is also on the list, albeit for his role on Good Morning America) and the role they play in our current media and culture. These are the people whose work we talk about and dissect, who influence what we think and enjoy on a regular basis. Sports is obviously a major part of that regimen, and that’s reflected appropriately here.