The 2009 Mediaweek 50 List

Editor’s Note

There’s a recurring phrase in David Mamet’s 1988 obscure gangster comedy Things Change, something to the effect of: “You know, he’s the guy behind the guy…”

The Mediaweek 50 are exactly that—the executives who help the Rupert Murdochs and Martin Sorrells and Mark Zuckerbergs get on those “power lists” in more celebrity-focused titles. Our 50 most important movers in the media and media agency business are the ones who get their hands dirty, who wield the marketplace clout and who come up with the ideas that end up making bazillions for their companies.

Jeff Gaspin, No. 1 on our third annual Mediaweek 50 list, exemplifies these qualities. While
Gaspin’s boss Jeff Zucker got the corporate stripes at parent G.E. (and, to be fair, some of the blame for NBC’s problems), this Jeff quietly strengthened one of the most diverse portfolios of cable networks into a powerhouse powerful enough to help NBC’s sales chief Mike Pilot (No. 32) prevent massive CPM meltdown for NBC during the upfront. It’s that accomplishment that finds Gaspin in charge of the whole NBC Universal TV empire today.

Not all 50 have bosses. Bill Koenigsberg is the most notable exception; we include him because of his extraordinary ability to play at the level of the giants of the media agency business without anywhere near the size.

So let’s hear it for these programmers, sales chiefs, buyers, researchers, editors, publishers and innovators, for keeping their operations running better than the competition. It’s that much more of an accomplishment in these challenging times.


This third annual Mediaweek 50 list was a true team effort, reflecting the collective knowledge, insight and connections of senior editors Katy Bachman, Anthony Crupi, Lucia Moses and Mike Shields, along with aid from former Mediaweeker John Consoli. Together they sought out their sources, spoke to analysts and crunched audience, circulation and ad sales data to base their selections on the following criteria:

• Executives’ oversight of properties and/or departments.

• The overall impact executives have on their industries, in terms of setting new industry standards or best practices.

• The worth of media buyers’ accounts and the deals they’ve cut, be they M&A, partnerships or sponsorships.

• The traction executives boasted in areas such as advertising revenue, ratings, audience growth and media accounts.

• Digital stats, which include the creation of new or advanced products, and the integration of new and traditional media.

It all gets synthesized by editors Michael Bürgi and Jim Cooper into what you’ll read in the coming pages. There’s no doubt some executives will disagree with our choices (particularly those from last year who didn’t make it this year). Vive la difference! We look forward to getting your feedback, which can be sent to

#1: JEFF GASPIN, chairman, NBC Universal Entertainment

On what may well be one of the most significant mornings in Jeff Gaspin’s 25-year television career, the NBC Universal Entertainment chief is parsing the early returns for the premiere episode of The Jay Leno Show, assessing the overnights with an equanimity that’s practically idiosyncratic.

NBC’s 10 p.m. crapshoot has delivered big, drawing 18 million viewers in its opening night, and notching a 5.3 rating/14 share among the key adults 18-49 demo. Per Nielsen ratings data, Leno’s debut now ranks as NBC’s most-watched program in the time slot since last year’s Summer Olympics. If nothing else, the network’s full-bore promotional blitz seems to have done the trick.

Gaspin’s not about to pull a Doc Severinsen and blow his own horn. While pleased with the results, NBC’s TV czar offers a characteristically measured response. “Last night’s turnout points to two things,” Gaspin says. “One, Jay is very popular, no matter what time he’s on. And two, we proved that we still have the ability to aggregate a big audience.”