How do you define success during a year in which the pandemic made success so hard to come by?
That’s the challenge that made this fourth annual edition of Variety500 different than previous years. It’s difficult enough in a typical year for Variety to figure out who the 500 most influential and impactful individuals are across a range of different media sectors, job functions and continents. Making those determinations is not for the faint of heart at a time when the entire economy is prevented in myriad ways from going about business as usual.
And yet that’s exactly what we did, though 2020 required us to bring a little more nuance to how we defined who deserved to be on the list this time around.
Over the past 12 months—the period we study closest in our assessments of the career performances of the thousands of artists and executives on our radar for consideration in Variety500—COVID-19 couldn’t have cast a larger shadow. Many of the biggest companies represented on the list retrenched by way of painful job eliminations and operational restructurings. Entire sectors—film exhibition, theme parks, live music—ground to a halt, with no clear picture yet of when or even if they can get back to work.
Still, despite how pervasive the hardships were, there were signs of life to celebrate. 2020 saw two new major entrants in the streaming wars, and many digitally-oriented companies have had their busiest years yet.
Sometimes hard times have a way of forcing innovation, encouraging experimentation and inviting risk-taking. You will see signs of all that over this list.
And while Variety500 has always kept an eye on the philanthropic activity, this year we gave it more focus than ever. Given all the hardships society faces today, it was heartening to see how many of the people on this list have made greater efforts than ever to extend their generosity, whether to their own employees or the world at large.
2020 was also a year in which issues relating to gender and ethnic representation dominated culture, whether here in Hollywood or on the broader world stage. Variety500 has always sought to capture the increasingly diverse makeup of those occupying the corridors of power in the media business. And while there is clearly still more progress to be made, Variety500 has emerged as an annual benchmark for judging those improvements.
Our goal is to reflect the best people working in our business today. We actively seek the input of people from every corner of the industry to ensure we’re getting it right, but don’t wait for us to reach out; we’re happy to hear from you! Submissions can be sent year-round to email@example.com in consideration for 2021.