NBC Appoints Graboff, Silverman Co-Chairmen; Reilly Out

May 29, 2007  •  Post A Comment

NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker Tuesday appointed producer Ben Silverman to run the company’s network and studio divisions alongside NBC veteran Marc Graboff.
In naming Mr. Silverman and Mr. Graboff co-chairmen, Mr. Zucker also confirmed entertainment president Kevin Reilly is leaving the company.
NBC Universal Television Studio President Angela Bromstad and executive VP Katherine Pope likely will stay on board, though not necessarily in their current roles.
“In Ben and Marc we have two tremendous talents,” Mr. Zucker said. “In Ben we have a force of nature … someone who brings a great energy and a new way of doing business to NBC. Our major goal is to turn around prime-time ratings performance, and I’m confident Ben and Marc will lead us on that road.”
Mr. Silverman’s ascension comes after a ratings plunge at NBC, which this month unveiled a fall schedule that offers just four new shows. Mr. Zucker said the timing hinged only on Mr. Silverman’s availability. Mr. Silverman first indicated he was ready to join NBC two weeks ago, Mr. Zucker said.
“I have talked to him about coming to NBC Entertainment over the years, but the timing never worked out,” Mr. Zucker said. “We moved quickly and decisively to make it happen now.”
Mr. Silverman later elaborated that he made the move to NBC after having been in talks with other, unspecified media companies. When he let Mr. Zucker know he might soon become unavailable for future partnerships, Mr. Zucker offered him a position one week later.
Mr. Zucker said Ms. Bromstad will continue with the company in some capacity, but also indicated a new executive will be tapped to run the studio she currently heads. As for Ms. Pope, Mr. Zucker indicated Mr. Silverman will decide on her role.
“Katherine is a key and integral member of our team. We expect her to spend many years to come here,” Mr. Zucker said. “Ben is now going to have those conversations with her and will figure out the best structure for him.”
Mr. Zucker said the sudden executive shakeup should not affect upfront advertising sales, adding Madison Avenue was excited to have Mr. Silverman running the network. Before Mr. Silverman produced hits such as NBC’s “The Office” and ABC’s “Ugly Betty,” he pre-packaged reality shows such as “The Restaurant” with major advertisers to make the concepts more enticing for networks.
Mr. Silverman will continue to own his production company, Reveille, but will not have a management role there, nor will he directly profit from any future projects. As part of the package to bring Mr. Silverman aboard, NBC extended its first-look deal with Reveille by two years.
“I always thought this was the right job for Ben,” Mr. Zucker said in the press release. “This new role will give him the opportunity to redefine our programming, our relationship with advertisers and our ongoing commitment to the new digital frontier.”
Some in the industry have criticized Mr. Zucker for his handling of the transition. Mr. Reilly only learned of Mr. Silverman’s new role on Friday, when news of Mr. Silverman’s hire began circulating online.
“We handled it professionally and as smartly as these things are handled,” Mr. Zucker said. “These were preliminary conversations taking place early last week, and no decisions had been reached, and we all feel it was professionally handled.”
Mr. Reilly, who has run NBC’s entertainment operation since 2004, asked to be released from his three-year contract last week after learning of Mr. Zucker’s courtship of Mr. Silverman.
Although Mr. Reilly has struggled to boost NBC out of its perpetual fourth-place position, he is credited with the biggest breakout hit of the season, “Heroes,” as well as modest successes “The Office” and “My Name Is Earl.”
While Mr. Graboff handles the management end of things at NBC’s network and studio businesses, Mr. Silverman will push the creative agenda, according to Mr. Zucker.
“I grew up watching NBC and have always loved this network,” Mr. Silverman said in the release. “So this is a dream job for me. And what a thrill it is to be partnering with Marc. We have had great success across the table from each other, and I can’t wait to be working side-by-side with him to help shape NBC’s future during this time of incredible excitement and unprecedented change.”
Placing the studio under the control of Mr. Graboff and Mr. Silverman makes it unclear what Ms. Bromstad’s role becomes. Sources said Mr. Zucker is a supporter of Ms. Bromstad and was trying to find a way to keep her on board.
According to published reports, Ms. Pope, having planned to move to the studio side, was upset by Mr. Zucker’s shakeup plans and asked to be let out of her contract last week.
When NBC renewed Mr. Reilly’s contract in March, the network had cause for tentative optimism. Coming off the fall, NBC was again in fourth place in the ratings, but it showed some year-to-year audience growth. The network also garnered buzz for new shows such as “Heroes” and “Friday Night Lights.”
But the recent broadcast ratings slump hit NBC especially hard, with the network suffering some of its lowest ratings in Nielsen’s history. The May sweeps period concluded last week with NBC down a steep 22 percent compared with the same period last year in the key 18 to 49 demographic.
The network’s upfront presentation was considered lackluster by some industry insiders, with only four new shows added for fall and no new comedies.
Mr. Reilly also attracted some recent criticism by renewing low-rated series “Lights” and “30 Rock.” But people familiar with the matter said NBC’s record-low ratings are the key reason Mr. Zucker sought out Mr. Silverman for the new position.

Your Comment

Email (will not be published)