In a move more surprising for its timing than its substance, Ben Silverman is departing as co-chairman of NBC Entertainment Studios and Universal Media Studios.
Silverman’s exit was revealed as part of an NBC press release announcing Jeff Gaspin’s elevation to the position of NBC Universal Television Entertainment Studios Chairman. Gaspin will be adding oversight over the company’s network television operations to his current position as president and COO of NBC-Uni’s cable properties, including USA, SyFy, Bravo and Oxygen.
Marc Graboff, who had formerly been Silverman’s co-chairman, will continue on as Chairman for NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios.
Confused a smidge by who’s chairman over what?
Well, Graboff will report to Gaspin, as part of a movie that NBC Universal President and CEO Jeff Zucker says consolidates the company’s television assets.
“Jeff Gaspin is an extraordinary media professional who has had an incredible record of success in his 25 years in the business,” Zucker says in the statement. “He’s a strong creative executive who also has the business acumen necessary to succeed in today’s media environment. This new structure helps us align all of our television entertainment assets under one veteran executive at a time when continued innovation is essential.”
As for Silverman, NBC is claiming he’ll continue at his current job for several additional weeks to see through the power transition and to assist in launching NBC’s fall schedule. From there, Silverman will return to his business roots, forming a new venture with Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp group.
“Ben Silverman has many exciting things he wants to accomplish and we applaud him as he sets off on his new endeavors,” Zucker says. “Ben brought us tremendous new thinking in this changing media age, and we’re grateful for that. Now, we look forward to working with him in his new venture.”
Note that Zucker didn’t refer to any of the tremendous success Silverman brought in changing the fortunes of NBC’s status as a fourth-place network, a position which has had the industry buzzing about his status for many months. The biggest gamble of Silverman’s NBC tenure, the replacement of all 10 p.m. primetime programming with a nightly Jay Leno comedy program, won’t premiere until September.
Silverman had far greater success in his time at Reveille, the company he launched in 2002. At Reveille, Silverman had his hand in the acquisition and development of American versions of “The Office” and “Ugly Betty,” among other hits.
In a statement issued by IAC/InterActiveCorp, Silverman is already looking forward.
“Media is being consumed across an increasing number of platforms, including TV, the internet, mobile, and DVR. The next generation of media will be defined by the players who can capitalize on those trends and deliver integrated, compelling content across all platforms,” says Silverman. “Uniting advertisers and content creators will fundamentally improve quality and enable a fluid production and distribution model.”
Silverman’s most successful initiatives at NBC involved finding new revenue streams to allow shows to measure success in ways beyond ratings, through promotional and production partnership, as well as advanced interaction and integration with advertisers, a savvy that helped lead to three additional seasons of “Friday Night Lights,” on one hand, and a full season of “Knight Rider” on the other.
Diller states, “This new venture will take full advantage of all areas of Ben Silverman’s extensive media expertise – as an agent, producer and advertising innovator – to create a truly integrated and truly interactive new media production entity, a next generation enterprise that bridges the gap between traditional television and the internet.”
Sounding like an extension of Silverman’s work at NBC-Uni, the IAC/InterActiveCorp release boasts that this will be the industry’s first global platform that “connects advertisers, distributors and content creators early on in the development process, enabling advertisers to be a partner in campaigns and content creation.”