As the media recession slowly subsides, or, depending on who you talk to, rests on pause, CEOs, owners and directors who have seen their companies come though the wilderness obviously are beholden to the people who help lead the way out.
Mediaweek 50, AdweekMedia’s annual compilation of these “indispensables,” focuses on individuals that advanced innovation, revenue and influence for their companies, often under a ton of pressure. Many on this list—compiled, debated and packaged by Mediaweek’s editors Jim Cooper, Anthony Crupi, Mike Shields, Lucia Moses, Katy Bachman, Marc Berman, Alan Frutkin and Adweek network TV and media agency editor Steve McClellan—are new, running breakout businesses like Twitter and Huffington Post that were the stuff of fervent whispers and rushed signatures on NDAs just a few years ago.
The list is increasingly focused on digital innovators as companies such as Condé Nast and traditional media agencies advance themselves by transitioning to an online and mobile reality. On the other hand the list is also TV heavy, reflecting the medium’s resurgence in both the upfront and scatter market. Cable is especially ascendant, with momentum that is embodied by the dynamic duo of Turner’s David Levy and Steven Koonin in the No. 1 slot.
They reached that perch by convincing Conan O’Brien to make his new late-night home on cable, playing big in sports with a groundbreaking pact with CBS on NCAA hoops and nearing pricing parity with broadcasters in this year’s upfront. —Editors
For a two-part, introductory Mediaweek 50 video click below:
Here’s the 2010 Mediaweek 50 list:
1. David Levy: president, sales, distribution and sports, Turner Broadcasting; and Steve Koonin: president, Turner Entertainment Networks
Conan O’Brien looks like a guy who’s lived out every road cliché in the American metal songbook. The day is heaving itself toward noon and the talk-show host is leaning his Giacometti frame against a wall near the foot of the staircase at New York’s Del Posto restaurant. As he begins chatting to a scrum of reporters, O’Brien looks at once world-weary and ebullient.
It turns out he’s humming along on about two hours of sleep, having flown in to New York in the midst of a 32-city comedy tour. O’Brien had assured Turner Entertainment Networks president Steve Koonin that he would kick off the company’s upfront presentation, and while he continues in the same arch and goofy vein that informed his routine earlier in the morning, the snappy patter accordions in on itself once he’s asked about his split with NBC.
“I want to move on,” he says, brushing the question aside. “I really just want to be funny on television. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Koonin is more than happy to help O’Brien move on, ushering him away from the huddle of outstretched tape recorders and spiral notepads. The juxtaposition of the comedian, who stands 6’ 4” in his stocking feet, and Koonin, who most assuredly does not, is mildly funny in and of itself. When Koonin returns, he’s beaming.
“If you had told me five years ago that we’d be working with Conan and Andre [Braugher] and Kyra Sedgwick, I would have asked you to submit to a drug test,” he says.
A few months later, after David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports, Turner Broadcasting, has wrapped the group’s most lucrative upfront in its history, Koonin still sounds like he can’t quite get his head around his own good fortune. “It’s almost surreal: In 60 days [on Nov. 8], Conan launches on TBS. The network has never had that one definitive element, that defining personality. Conan is the absolute epitome of smart, funny TV, and for us to be in cahoots with him is a terrific accomplishment.”