Fifth Annual Variety500 Unveiled: The 500 Most Important People in Global Media

2021 will be remembered as a year of profound change and disruption in the media business, which makes it all the more important that those in this industry who managed to stand out from the crowd are recognized.

The fifth annual Variety500 honors the 500 most influential and impactful executives and creatives working today, and one couldn’t be more different than the next. They hail from a range of different media sectors, job functions and continents.

But what unites them is excellence. If there’s some common threads that weave together the many different individuals who make up our 500 honorees this year, it’s that they possess the skills that help companies big and small navigate uncharted waters. Whether it’s an artist on a solo mission or a leader overseeing a massive conglomerate, the true greats never stand pat and always keep moving forward. Rather than accepting the status quo, they adapt and innovate with their ability to see around the corners that most mere mortals don’t notice. Click here to read the full list.

The complexion of the list changes year to year. But there are certain distinct patterns that have been a part of Variety500 since its inception: Obviously the major media companies are well represented, as are the technology giants that have become their biggest rivals. Then there’s the people who make the product: the directors, producers, writers and actors who bring their imagination to screens of all sizes. Yes, there’s thousands upon thousands of people whose curriculum vitae need to be reviewed and assessed, but Variety has developed an incredible radar over the years that ensures no worthy individual escapes our attention.

Figuring out who makes the Variety500 is a herculean chore that involves constant debate. Someone who qualifies for the list one year doesn’t necessarily make it the next, because the competition is intense. For more on our internal selection process, you can view a full rundown here.

2021 also demonstrated that diversity continues to be a work in progress across the media business, but there have been improvements worth noting over the past four years. If Variety500 is any indication, the representation of women and people of color at the highest levels of the industry gets better and better: Female honorees rose 11% over 2020, while Black and Hispanic/Latine honorees are both up nearly 6%.

Variety500 has established itself as the most authoritative accounting of power in an industry of incalculable global influence. No wonder there’s constant conversation both inside and outside Variety about who is going to make the list this year; the jockeying for position that was once contained to a month or two now plays out 12 months a year. Variety500 editors are always happy to hear a pitch. Feel free to send one to; work on the 2022 edition is already underway!