CEO, Apple, 51
Last year, Cook was still the man-in-waiting, assuming control of Apple, but still in the shadow of Steve Jobs. More of a manager than an oracle, Cook is now fully in charge of the world’s most valuable company -- it surpassed ExxonMobil in 2012 -- which means it’s his show to run.
Spokesperson/Talk-Show Host/Producer, 54
Now that Oprah has left network television, DeGeneres reigns supreme with her talk show, using her pulpit to change public opinion. When J.C. Penney tapped her as its spokesperson, antigay group One Million Moms campaigned to remove her, which was followed by the unthinkable: Bill O’Reilly came to her defense. J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson ignored the hate and decided to keep DeGeneres, saying, “She shares the same values that we do in our company.”
Venture Capitalist/Hedge Fund Manager, 44
It took a gay, libertarian entrepreneur to realize the nascent power of Facebook in 2004, when the PayPal cofounder became the social network’s first major investor, with a $500,000 loan that enabled Mark Zuckerberg to realize world domination. That stake is now worth $2.13 billion, allowing Thiel to pursue loftier projects, including research into life extension and his incentive scheme for would-be entrepreneurs under the age of 20: $100,000 to drop out of college and launch their own businesses.
Murphy’s Glee soldiers on -- complete with gay teen kisses -- but the high school melodrama is just one of many projects the multi-hyphenate currently juggles. Last year, he debuted the campy-but-addictive American Horror Story, which proved a ratings hit and was renewed for a second season. Also in the pipeline is an NBC pilot, The New Normal, which focuses on a same-sex couple and their child’s surrogate mother; a Sony Pictures musical comedy, One Hit Wonders, with Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon, and Cameron Diaz attached; and a star-studded (Alec Baldwin, Julia Roberts) film adaptation of Larry Kramer’s AIDS-era drama, The Normal Heart. Murphy’s the foremost proponent of queer characters in mainstream culture.
Maddow took the reins of MSNBC primetime after the departure of Keith Olbermann, headlining the channel’s 25th consecutive monthly ratings victory in the 9 p.m. slot over CNN. She earned an Emmy for her coverage of Afghanistan this year, and, with the upcoming presidential election, she’s poised to become ever more prominent.
Journalist/News Anchor/Talk-Show Host, 44
After stints on 60 Minutes and alongside Kelly Ripa (he was rumored as a possible replacement when Regis Philbin retired), he launched his own talk show, Anderson. Guests haven’t brought in the ratings, although the show was picked up for a second season. He continues to do his respected Anderson Cooper 360° on CNN and remains a silver-haired heartthrob to countless Middle-American housewives.
Ross started his career in TV and has been innovating at Disney Studios since he joined in 2009. He’s responsible for three of the top 10 highest-grossing films of all time and can take credit for two Academy Award winners this year: The Muppets reboot and The Help. Next up? Pixar’s Brave, about a strong-minded Scottish girl attempting to save her kingdom.
(NOTE: Out went to press before Rich Ross announced his resignation from Walt Disney Studios. Do you think that affects his position on the Power List? Let us know.)
Chairman, IAC, 70
With the merger of The Daily Beast and Newsweek, he added even more media properties to his InterActiveCorp’s stable -- which includes Match.com, CollegeHumor, Vimeo -- but Diller’s still making waves with Aereo, a service that transmits broadcast TV to web users. The new venture has been controversial, but that’s what billionaire Diller -- who’s married to fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg -- does best.
As one of Fox News’ most recognizable faces and the host of nightly anchor series Fox Report, Smith has garnered consistent top ratings since the network’s inception in 1996.
TV Personality/Impresario, 44
Cohen has already taken over our TV sets by executive-producing or coproducing countless Bravo programs -- like the Real Housewives franchise and The Millionaire Matchmaker -- but now that his talk show, Watch What Happens Live, is playing five nights a week, he’s become a certifiable TV personality. His memoir, Most Talkative, out this month, will likely further his domination of all things pop.