Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel
Hosts, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Late Night With Jimmy Fallon viewers were in for a treat last November when Bruce Springsteen stepped on stage, dressed as he looked in 1975, to duet with Neil Young (OK, it was Fallon doing a spot-on impression) on an acoustic cover of Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair." By the next morning, the clip had gone viral — just the latest overnight sensation for the two-year-old show. More than any other talk-show hosts, the Two Jimmys — Fallon and Kimmel — have taken advantage of the Internet to reach audiences who are in bed by midnight. In doing so, they've made their shows nightly buzz machines and are leading pop culture rather than just riffing about it. "This show wouldn't be a success without the Internet and social media," Fallon says. Jimmy Kimmel Live! helped change the rules in 2008 when its parody video "I'm (Bleeping) Matt Damon" became a viral sensation. Kimmel now regularly makes celebrity-tinged videos, like the parody "Hottie Body Humpilates" with Sofía Vergara from this year's post-Oscars special. Fallon, who has 3.5 million Twitter followers, hired G4's Attack of the Show! exec producer Gavin Purcell to make sure tech and online were a big part of his show. Other recent bits that turned into online sensations include his "Friday" duet with Stephen Colbert. "We've been able to let people know who Jimmy is," Purcell says. "That's where the Internet succeeds."
Executive producer, TNT's Falling Skies, Fox's Terra Nova, NBC's pilot Smash
Steven Spielberg made a name for himself in the movies, but he never stopped loving TV. Now, after years of dabbling in the medium, the master auteur will soon be found all over the tube. His DreamWorks TV, run by Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank, is behind two of the most anticipated new series of 2011 — TNT's Falling Skies (premiering June 19) and Fox's Terra Nova (premiering this fall) — as well as Showtime's United States of Tara. The surprise: Spielberg is credited as an executive producer on all of them. He has mostly avoided putting his name on DreamWorks TV projects unless he was regularly involved in the show or instrumental in its creation, but now he's there every step of the way — from coming up with the idea for Tara to approving spaceship designs on Falling Skies. "We all marvel at his ability to be as hands-on as he is," says TNT's Michael Wright. "I'm convinced he cloned himself at some point." Spielberg is particularly passionate about DreamWorks TV's NBC musical pilot Smash. "He and I have worked shoulder-to-shoulder on it," says NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt. "It was his idea because of his interest in Broadway theater. He's been as invested in Smash as any producer I've ever worked with on a pilot." And with a name like Spielberg attached, NBC has high hopes that Smash will live up to its title.
President, Disney Channels Worldwide
High School Musical may be old news, but that hasn't slowed momentum at Disney Channel. Carolina Lightcap took over as president of Disney Channels Worldwide at the end of 2009, just as the HSM franchise had faded, and quickly set about expanding the company on a number of new fronts. That includes increasing the channel's movie output (Lemonade Mouth), adding new comedies (Shake It Up) and growing its boy-centric sister network Disney XD. Lightcap also morphed Disney Channel's preschool block into Disney Junior, which relaunched this February and will debut as a full 24-hour cable channel in 2012. "It's really delivering for us," says Lightcap, who notes that new Disney Junior series Jake and the Never Land Pirates is No. 1 with kids ages 2 to 5. Lightcap is also spearheading efforts to turn Disney Channel's animated hit Phineas and Ferb into a major asset for the entire Disney empire. Not only will the network debut the first Phineas and Ferb TV-movie this summer, but Disney's feature-film division is developing a movie for the big screen. "The series has quite an avid audience of grownups as well," Lightcap says. "We think it has the potential to become a big franchise for us." And Lightcap (who also oversees Radio Disney) hasn't forgotten about music, which Disney reinvented on TV with HSM. Next up, the musical series Madison High, expected to launch in 2012.
Cocreator/executive producer, Glee
When a top executive at 20th Century Fox Television suggested to Ryan Murphy that the performances in Glee be released as a soundtrack, his reaction was — why? "That was never on my radar," says the cocreator/executive producer of the series-turned-music-industry juggernaut. "It went from a TV pilot to a brand in six months." But Glee has been more than a great business (with a record-setting 132 singles and counting on the Billboard Hot 100) for Murphy and Fox. This season the show, through the character of Kurt (played by Chris Colfer) shed public light on the bullying of gay teens as the story became front-page news. Murphy also has received hundreds of letters from teachers, students and parents thanking him for making music education cool. "Programs are kept open because kids are demanding it," Murphy says. "It's amazing because the kids on our show are constantly tortured for doing musical theater." Also coming from Glee, Inc.: The Glee Project, a reality show for Oxygen launching June 12; a second national concert tour with the cast that starts May 21; and Glee Live! 3D! a movie of the tour, in theaters August 12. Murphy's next project is a pilot for FX called American Horror Story. "It's a psychosexual thriller," he says. "It's a feel-bad show, the complete opposite of Glee." Can't wait to hear the soundtrack.
Cofounder and CEO of Netflix
Reed Hastings was already a multimillionaire by the mid-1990s thanks to his software business, but that didn't make him any less embarrassed to tell his wife he owed a $40 late fee for his video rental of Apollo 13. His shame (and a flash of genius) led to the launch of Netflix. The red envelopes used for the DVD-by-mail service quickly became a part of life for millions of movie lovers. But the long-term plan was to provide Internet streaming of films and TV shows. "Reed saw how the Internet was changing people's lives with online banking and Amazon," says Hastings' spokesperson Steve Swasey. "Once we were streaming trailers for movies on the Netflix site in the early 2000s, we knew the technology was there. It was a matter of getting it right." With 22.8 million users, Netflix is the largest video subscription service in the U.S. For a monthly fee, subscribers are offered an all-you-can-watch buffet via Apple TV, PCs, game consoles, iPads and the growing number of TVs connected to the Internet. Half of Netflix's business comes from rentals of TV shows — much of it from new fans who want to catch up on previous seasons. Next year, Netflix will not just be a haven for reruns. It will be the exclusive venue for the drama series House of Cards, a remake of a British political thriller, starring Oscar winner Kevin Spacey.
Will Ferrell, Chris Henchy, Adam McKay
Even after they made it big in movies, Will Ferrell and writer/director Adam McKay still loved doing the kind of sketch comedy they delivered on Saturday Night Live. So in 2007, with fellow writer Chris Henchy, they founded FunnyorDie.com, an online home for short-form comedy. "We said, 'All right, we'll have this little clubhouse where we and our friends can put up sketches,'" says McKay. Who knew that Billy Crystal, Helen Mirren and Jim Carrey would want to play? Attracting that kind of star power has given the site a cachet that goes well beyond the Web. Many celebs find that a Funny or Die video is the cool way to experiment, make a political statement or make fun of themselves. But the site is also becoming a low-cost way to develop TV projects. "The vision is to be the 21st century niche studio model," says CEO Dick Glover. "We only do a certain form of comedy." TV networks are paying attention. TBS has ordered a reality-show pilot based on a wildly popular FOD video of Jewel playing her own music in disguise at a karaoke bar. FX is considering a talk-show concept from the members of comedy group Upright Citizens Brigade in which the host goes on cold with no knowledge of who his guests are (Funny or Die would produce). McKay points out that one of the appealing aspects of creating something for Funny or Die is that failure is an option. "If you don't like your video, we won't put it up on the site," says McKay. "And that's been exercised a few times."
President and general manager, AMC
Just five years ago AMC was a cable movie channel at a time when there were many other places to watch movies. Now it's home to two of the most acclaimed series on TV (Mad Men and Breaking Bad) and the most buzzed-about new drama (The Killing). "We want it to feel like a premium television experience on basic cable," says Charlie Collier, president and general manager of AMC. His strategy is to offer the distinctive programming viewers expect to see on HBO or Showtime but don't have to pay extra for. Collier welcomes passion projects with antiheroes and slow-burning stories that may not attract broad audiences. But with feature filmmakers like Frank Darabont and Gale Anne Hurd on board, you can end up with a hit like The Walking Dead. The zombiefest became the top-rated cable original-scripted series among viewers ages 18 to 49 and returns for Season 2 this fall. Collier's next move is to put the AMC stamp of quality on reality programming, with 2012 projects that go behind the scenes at advertising agencies and the Department of Homeland Security.
Founder and president, 495 Productions
SallyAnn Salsano has a situation on her hands. The creative force behind MTV's monster hit Jersey Shore says the show's success has opened "a ton of doors" for her 495 Productions company. But, "you have to be careful [and] make wise choices," she adds of the avalanche of opportunities coming her way. "The secret is being passionate about what you do. The most successful shows of mine I have personally connected to." Salsano, who cut her teeth on The Bachelor and is also behind Spike TV's new series Repo Games, says she fits right in with Jersey Shore's motley crew (she also spent time on the Jersey shore growing up). The show has become MTV's signature series, attracting 7.6 million viewers for its season finale in March. "Every once in a while something comes along that feels fresh and different," she says. "I think audiences were drawn in by how raw it was. You felt that these kids were 100 percent authentic." Next up: Two Jersey Shore spin-offs (one with Pauly D and the other with Snooki and JWoww), as well as the Lifetime weight-loss series Love Handles. And she just flew to Italy to begin shooting Season 4 of Jersey Shore. "I like anything that's real and relatable, stuff that people have going on in their lives," she says. "All of our shows are about people pursuing a dream."