The Producers: Whether Creating Groundbreaking Movies, Developing Original TV Programs, or Making Soulful Music, These 50 Power Brokers Call the Shots in America's Most Dynamic Industries. (Business of Entertainment)(Cover Story)

By Dingle, Derek T.; Morgan, Christina et al. | Black Enterprise, December 2002 | Go to article overview

The Producers: Whether Creating Groundbreaking Movies, Developing Original TV Programs, or Making Soulful Music, These 50 Power Brokers Call the Shots in America's Most Dynamic Industries. (Business of Entertainment)(Cover Story)


Dingle, Derek T., Morgan, Christina, Smothers, Shani, Carbon, Hyacinth, Lundy, Tykisha, Rose, Sophia, Benet, Siobhan, Brown, Sonja, Garcia, Chana, Black Enterprise


FROM TIMES SQUARE TO TINSEL TOWN, WHICH PLAYERS REALLY have the juice?

It has been eight years since we've compiled the BLACK ENTERPRISE Top 50 Black Power Brokers in Entertainment. We decided to unveil the current top dogs in film, television, and music because these industries have experienced dramatic changes over the past decade. Among the factors that have altered the landscape are:

* A new generation of players. In 1994, Generation Xers weren't prominent on the list. But today many of them have managed to build a successful track record in the business or significant wattage bright enough to be considered for this list.

* The growing influence of hip-hop culture in film, television, and, of course, music. A number of rap artists have reinvented themselves as multimedia moguls. Also, more studio execs, agents, and lawyers have expanded their effective force and catapulted their careers by signing such talent.

* Technology. The Internet has provided a vehicle for creative development, innovative marketing, and experimentation. Many professionals and entrepreneurs have built Websites as a means of reaching new audiences--in many cases, on an international scale.

Another reason we took this inventory of power has to do with how we spend our consumer dollars. According to Entertainment Index by Nielsen Entertainment in White Plains, New York. African Americans pump millions of dollars into the industry, representing $906.8 million in sales on prerecorded music and $368.9 million in sales on movie theater tickets for the first six months of 2002. Moreover, according to Nielson Media Research, blacks watch 14 hours and 29 minutes of television per week, more than any other group in the nation. Also, in recent years, organizations such as the NAACP have sought to change the abysmal representation of blacks in the industry. Jeff Friday, executive director of the African American Film Festival, says, "In Hollywood, power comes in two forms: executive power in which those at the studio can green-light a film, an area where we are not represented, and artistic power in which actors like Denzel, Ice Cube, and Wesley [Snipes] can get their films made because of their branding and box office draw."

So how did we pick the BE Power Brokers? Our editorial team engaged in extensive research and consulted with a bevy of industry insiders. We selected professionals, executives, and entrepreneurs who hold the levers of control or exercise the most influence in the development and production of music, motion pictures, and broadcast and cable television programs. (See sidebar for criteria.)

This register changed substantially from the original list we developed in 1994. To begin with, 32 individuals who appeared on the previous list didn't make the cut this time around. And there were differences in the number of players found in each sector. Music and television, for instance, have the same number of representatives--16 each. Film had eight representatives. There were six lawyers/agents on the list and four individuals who delve equally into film, television, and music. This group, however, is just as entrepreneurial: roughly 50% of these power brokers own their own record label, production company, artist management business, or law firm. And, collectively and individually, they wield significantly more clout. For example, a new inductee is Richard D. Parsons, CEO of AOL Time Warner, the media leviathan that owns, among other things, Warner Bros. and New Line studios, Elecktra Records, TNT and TBS networks, and Six Flags amusement parks.

But despite the progress shown on our register, African Americans still have a way to go to get their deserved slice of the power pie. The statistics speak volumes: There are no black studio chiefs and only one black CEO of an entertainment network--billionaire Robert Johnson who presides over Viacom's Black Entertainment Television (BET). …

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