In Depth

NBC's Silverman: Broadcast to Be Event-Driven

In 15 years, broadcast television will only be useful for high-profile live events like the Super Bowl, awards shows and programs like “American Idol,” Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, said during a keynote interview at the TelevisionWeek Upfront Summit in New York.

Other shows will have to live on multiple platforms to survive.

“[Broadcast] will also be where we launch our episodic storytelling vehicles, but they will be living and breathing everywhere,” he said.

NBC plans to experiment with driving viewers to the Web from TV with its new fall show “Kath and Kim.” NBC will offer continued scenes online after each episode airs, Mr. Silverman said.

“Around our new offerings there will literally be shows that end on air and the last scene will continue online,” he said.

Online extensions of shows must be distinct from what’s on air, he said.

"'The Office’ lives as an event on Thursday night at 9 p.m. with millions of people watching, and then there is a Dunder-Mifflin social network online and hundreds of thousands of people are playing with it every day, but in no way are you watching the same thing you saw on TV,” Mr. Silverman said.

When asked about the reputation he has developed in his short time on the job as an entertainment chief who works closely with marketers, he said that’s due to the new generation of showrunners who are “friends” of advertisers.

That includes Tim Kring and Tina Fey, who head up popular NBC shows “Heroes” and “30 Rock,” respectively, Mr. Silverman said.

“Tina Fey loves American Express. They have been inside '30 Rock,' in the show. They have supported her through the Tribeca Film Festival,” he said. “Tim Kring enjoys his relationships with Nissan. He felt Nissan helped empower the growth of that show.”

Those relationships with brands are part of the new way of doing business as a TV entertainment executive, he said.

“I am trying to connect the dots of what we are all trying to do together as well as help move the goods and service of the advertisers who underwrite the content funding," he said. "Those things are not mutually exclusive. ... If you look at the best shows on television, those are also the best shows in which we are able to sell a credit card and automotive. This is how the business works and how the content is enabled to be delivered to the consumer.”

Mr. Silverman also addressed the failure of “Quarterlife” on TV. NBC brought the Web drama to prime time in March, but it debuted to the network’s worst ratings in the time slot in 17 years.
“It was probably the wrong concept," he said. "Had we been the MTV audience, that show might have worked.”

Web-to-TV migrations are more likely to work for “Blair Witch” or “Cloverfield” type concepts, as well as extreme comedy like “Jackass,” Mr. Silverman said.

(Editor: Baumann)