He wasn’t on Pulau Tiga, but he may be ”Survivor”’s biggest winner. CBS president Les Moonves – who made the decision to air the butt baring, bug eating summer smash that asked who REALLY wants to be a millionaire – takes the top spot on EW’s annual Power List of the 101 most influential people in entertainment. (The issue hit newsstands Oct. 20.) ”’Survivor’ was the single most captivating entertainment event of the year,” says Maggie Murphy, the EW assistant managing editor who oversaw the issue. ”That finale was a must watch.”
And the success of the isle based show caused a sea change for its network and the TV biz as a whole. The two hour season ender brought the once AARP skewing Tiffany net 28.4 million viewers in the 18 to 49 age range and raised the ratings bar for summer programming overall. And, for better or worse, we’ll feel its influence for some time to come. Adds Murphy: ”Consider the number of ‘Suvivor’esque shows we’ll now have to endure.”
Some more familiar faces are right on Moonves’ hit nurturing heels in Power’s top 10. Julia Roberts, who generated $125 million at the box office and Oscar talk with ”Erin Brockovich,” moves up to No. 2 from last year’s No. 8. And Tom ”I made $215 million with ‘MI:2”’ Cruise vaults 14 place to No. 3. These upward bounds speak to the increased significance of reliably bankable top liners. ”In general, actors are in a better bargaining position than ever before,” says Murphy.
As for the rest of the top 10, there’s the Steven Spielberg/ Jeffrey Katzenberg/ David Geffen multimedia trioka, DreamWorks SKG (No. 4), ”Harry Potter” scribe J.K. Rowling (No. 5), and two guys who likely won’t be on the list the next time around -? Shawn Fanning and Hank Barry, the founder and C.E.O., respectively, of the legally embattled music swapping website Napster (No. 6). ”They weren’t even on the horizon a year ago and probably won’t even exist a year from now,” says Murphy, citing the site’s tremendous legal troubles. ”But the music business will never be the same because of Napster.” Indeed most major record companies – including the Universal Music group, whose Chairman/ CEO Doug Morris is at No. 7 – have announced Napster like plans for digitally distributing their tunes. (But unlike Napster, users will have to pay.) Miramax Film’s Cochairman Bob Weinstein places at No. 8. (Talk about liking ”Scary Movie”s !), followed by two more big screen money makers: Bruce Willis (No. 9) and Tom Hanks (No. 10).
But power comes and goes. Missing from this year’s list are Gwyneth ”Karaoke Movie” Paltrow, ”Matrix” writer/ directors Andy and Larry Wachowski, and all those damned Pokémon. Among the newcomers filling their spots: ”Gladiator” star Russell Crowe (No. 15), popsters Britney Spears (No. 20), and ‘N Sync/ Backstreet Boys (No. 54), and MTV’s arbiter of all things teen, Carson Daly (No. 90). And the year’s biggest fall? Fledgling presidential interviewer and famed modelizer Leonardo DiCaprio drops 43 spots to No. 98. ”’The Beach’ wasn’t much of comeback,” says Murphy.
Expect even more dramatic shakeups next year due to the anticipated strikes by the Screen Actors Guild and the Writer’s Guild of America. Who’ll come out on top? ”The questions will become, Who has the most product in the pipeline and who can generate income when there are no movies or TV shows being shot,” says Murphy. Hmmm… wonder if it’s too late to apply for the top spot at TV Land.
Check out who EW put on its Rising list in the 2000 Power Issue.
Plus, look at our 1999 Power list