Everyone should know this by now: Never count Oprah out. Despite business stumbles and an $88 million earnings drop since last year, Oprah Winfrey returns to the top of Forbes’ annual Celebrity 100 ranking of the most powerful celebrities after two years in second place. She leads a female-dominated top 10 that includes Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Madonna, Taylor Swift and Ellen DeGeneres.
Even without her eponymous daytime talk show, Winfrey made an estimated $77 million between June 2012 and June 2013, down from last year’s $165 million. While she wasn’t the highest earner on our list, her money, mixed with strong fame scores in metrics like press mentions and social networking power, pushed her to the top.
Winfrey remains a powerful force in Hollywood. Her Oprah Winfrey Network, once a drifting cable outpost that lost an estimated $330 million for parent company Discovery between 2008 and the end of 2012, is now a smoothish-running media machine that could turn a profit by the end of 2013.
Mistakes like Rose O’Donnell’s talk show? History. Nailing must-see viewing, like her two-night interview with disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, is Winfrey’s focus now, as are scripted shows with help from fellow Celebrity 100 member Tyler Perry. In the near future, shows that don’t star Winfrey could become as much of a draw as her own programs. Winfrey also earns from an empire that includes her O magazine, talk shows from protégés like Rachael Ray and Dr. Phil, and a network on SiriusXM satellite radio.
Unlike most FORBES lists, which are based on earnings or net worth, our annual Celebrity 100 takes a stab at measuring that most ephemeral of riches: fame. Yes, we factor in celebrity earnings over the last 12 months, but we also tally how often each celebrity is mentioned in print and on TV, and gauge the strength of their Internet presence and how they’re viewed by a critical constituency: American consumers.
This year we added a marketability score (1-100) for each celebrity that was developed by Encino, Calif.-based market research firm E-Poll, based on opinion polling about 46 different attributes for 6,600 different celebrities. Will Smith, Jennifer Aniston and Sandra Bullock are the most marketable celebrities on our list (Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James ranks dead last in that category).
For social networking strength, we worked with another new partner, Starcount, a Singapore-based company that measures impact across 11 social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google +. Each celebrity’s Starcount number gives a sense of how popular he or she is on the Internet.
Pop stars tend to do very well on this metric. Last year’s Celebrity 100 cover boy, Justin Bieber, has the most social networking power of the 100 celebrities on our list, followed by Rihanna and Lady Gaga.
Of course, because we’re FORBES, money carries the most weight in our rankings, and thanks to that Madonna is back on the Celeb 100–in fifth place–after two years off the list. Even though her newest album, MDNA, was a flop, the Material Girl still managed to rank as this year’s top earner thanks to a world tour that helped her rake in $125 million between June 2012 and June 2013.
Lady Gaga, who topped our list in 2011 and is often considered Madonna’s heir, ranks second despite cutting her tour short due to a hip injury. Gaga still managed to earn $80 million and get the second-most press mentions of anyone on our list (behind Rihanna). Gaga is also a master of social networking. Her Little Monsters hang on her every tweet, making her the third most successful social networker on our list.
Together with Beyonce (fourth,) Taylor Swift (sixth) and Ellen Degeneres (10th) women occupy six of the top 10 slots on this year’s list, down from seven last year. Overall, they landed 35 of 100 slots, about the same as last year.
Spielberg is up seven spots from last year, with estimated earnings of $100 million. The director was back in peak form with political biopic Lincoln. The film not only earned two Oscars, it also grossed a tidy $275 million at the global box office on a budget of $65 million. Spielberg’s TV work isn’t going quite as well, DreamWorks’ Smash was recently canceled by NBC. But he’s got several new shows in the works, including a small screen version of the popular video game, Halo.
Federer, the highest-ranked athlete on our list, is up 23 spots from last year thanks to the most impressive endorsement portfolio in sports. Ten sponsors collectively pay him more than $40 million annually. He’s also a press darling. Federer ranks seventh for celebrities with the most mentions in print.
Last year’s number one, Jennifer Lopez, falls to 12th place on our list this time around. With American Idol in her rearview mirror, Lopez just doesn’t carry the same buzz as a year ago, despite the ratings implosion of the show. No worries, though. She still managed to pull in $45 million from a major concert tour and endless endorsement work.