Imagine for a moment that you are a Hollywood mogul. After a tough but exhilarating day at the studio, you hop into your very chic, very expensive sports car and get out on the freeway for a leisurely ride up to your weekend place in Malibu, Santa Barbara, or Sonoma. You decide to tune into a podcast for the journey, but the question is which one of the hundreds available would you choose? If you’re like any of the 100 Most Powerful People in Entertainment profiled by the Hollywood Reporter, you’ll opt for a combination of news, history, politics, business, and not much else.
Of the 100 power players profiled, 64 responded to the fun question about the podcast they’d choose for a long drive. The closer one gets to the top of the list, the more focused these movers and shakers are on current events, taking lessons from other empire builders and sussing out history and world events to find the next Game of Thrones blockbuster event.
Anybody who’s ever scrolled through a podcast app knows how many choices are available for that long ride up the California coast. But these power players seem to have strikingly similar tastes.
The New York Times’ 20-minute news pod The Daily and Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History were the most popular road-trip selections, with listeners including Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy (No. 49), Karey Burke, and Paul Buccieri (presidents of ABC Entertainment and A&E Networks, and Nos. 76 and 70 respectively). Gladwell’s podcast, now in its fourth season, examines an overlooked or misunderstood moment in history. It’s a favorite of Warner Bros. CEO Toby Emmerich (No. 16) and Black-ish creator Kenya Barris (No. 68.). Other popular pods with this group included a business-biography-history mashup, NPR’s entrepreneur documentary series How I Built This, with popular host Guy Raz.
There’s a surprising lack of whimsey to selections at the top echelons of the executive suite. This probably makes sense for these execs who clearly appreciate that their industry is called show business and not show art. Farther down the list, where most of the creative types landed, there are some unique choices. Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda (No. 89) chose My Brother, My Brother and Me, which describes itself as an “advicecast” hosted by three real-life brothers. The wonderfully loopy sci-fi fantasy pod Welcome to Night Vale is a favorite of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller (No. 64).
Director-producer Ava DuVernay’s choice, Hear to Slay with Roxane Gay and Tressie McMillan Cottom, is one of the few that reflects her interests both on- and off-screen. Gay describes it as “a black feminist podcast, with an intersectional perspective on celebrity, culture, politics, art, life, love, and more.” DuVernay’s podcast choice comes in contrast to HBO programming president Casey Bloys (No. 25), who, despite the groundbreaking series his network airs, is still pretty old-school when it comes to podcast choices. Bloys prefers to listen to Howard Stern or MSNBC or an occasional Pod Save America selection. In an interesting blending of personal tastes, HBO recently announced that DuVernay will direct a pilot based on the DMZ comic series about a female medic in a dystopian New York City for HBO Max, which Bloys oversees. If this is any indication, maybe podcasts are another window into the Hollywood mind.