Erik Flannigan, 49
Executive vp music and multiplatform strategy, Viacom Music & Entertainment Group
Culturally relevant moments don’t occur in a vacuum, says Flannigan, who’s reveling in the recording-breaking 21.4 million tweets generated by the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards — the most-mentioned nonsports show since Nielsen began tracking Twitter TV activity in 2011. Linear TV viewers declined 5 percent (9.8 million), but streams were up 55 percent (41 million). Flannigan intends to keep the party going. “My job right now is to take the momentum from the VMAs and build it into a new music strategy for the network” on all platforms.
TV Experience That Made Him Want To Get Into The Business: “A tie: Elton John on The Muppet Show and The Clash on Fridays.”
Senior vp music and talent, CMT
Brian Philips, 54
The country-music cable channel’s CMT Awards and CMT Honors remain its cornerstones, but in the past year, Philips and Fram have grown CMT’s musical footprint across multiple platforms. Expanded programming includes the Next Women of Country Tour, Instant Jam — intimate concerts by, for instance, Kenny Chesney and Darius Rucker, that are announced the day of the show — and original content, such as the upcoming 2016 sitcom Still the King, featuring Billy Ray Cyrus as an Elvis impersonator.
Dream Booking: Philips: “Having U2 play the Johnny Cash songs they most love.”
Bob Greenblatt, 55
Chairman, NBC Entertainment
NBC has ruled primetime for the past two seasons under the steady hand of Greenblatt, who oversees all programming — and music has played an important role in that turnaround. Ratings powerhouses The Voice and America’s Got Talent have continued to shine. The Broadway producer (Something Rotten!) who gambled on live TV musical adaptations stumbled in 2014 with the critically drubbed Peter Pan (with Allison Williams), but the broadcast still drew a solid 9.2 million viewers. And NBC is readying a Dec. 3 follow-up that sounds like a winner: The Wiz Live! with a cast that includes Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Common and Ne-Yo.
Stephen Hill, 53
President of programming, BET Networks
Debra Lee, 61 Chairman/CEO, BET Networks
BET remains the top TV network for African-American audiences, and a key draw for music’s hottest acts. Its third BET Experience festival, held in Los Angeles and featuring performances by Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj and a partially reunited N.W.A (minus Dr. Dre) drew a crowd of 152,500 — a 36 percent increase over 2014. And though the audience for the 2015 music-focused BET Awards dipped to 6.5 million viewers (from 7.9 million in 2014), it is the No. 1 cable awards show in the 18-to-49 demographic so far this year.
Mentor: Hill: “Donald Trump,” he jokes.
Dawn Soler, 55
Senior vp music, ABC
Overseeing the soundtracks for all of ABC’s programming, which ranges from the musical fairy tale series Galavant to the ’80s rock of new crime drama Wicked City, Soler is always looking for ways to engage the audience. Among her passion projects have been two concert specials with the cast of Nashville, which had its most-watched season in 2015, and the ABC Music Lounge website, which helps viewers locate the songs featured in the network’s programming.
Dream Booking: “I would love to score something with Dr. Dre. I’ve tried for about 15 years.”
Jack Sussman, 59
Executive vp specials, music and live events, CBS
With a slate of music specials that includes the Grammy Awards, Tony Awards, Kennedy Center Honors and Academy of Country Music Awards, Sussman says his team is focused on capturing the moment that happens when musical acts, TV writers and producers collaborate in an organic way. “Our role is simple yet happens on a grand scale,” says the father of two grown daughters. “Make the authentic connection, make it work for music and TV,” then expose it to a mass audience. The 2014 ACMs, for instance, drew its largest audience since 1998, with 16 million viewers. “Network TV is the only game in town for that,” he says.
Paul Telegdy, 44
President of alternative and late-night programming, NBC
Telegdy’s day-to-day duties put him in the trenches of such music-heavy shows as The Voice, America’s Got Talent and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. The quick-witted British executive has helped the network land high-profile talent like One Direction for concert specials, and Saturday Night Live‘s 40th-anniversary special, which featured performances by Kanye West, Paul McCartney and Miley Cyrus and scored more than 23 million viewers — making it NBC’s most-watched nonsports program in more than 10 years.