NBC’s Silverman: Broadcast to Be Event-Driven

May 1, 2008  •  Post A Comment

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)


  1. If you’re gonna send me online to see the final scene of a TV show just to get me to your website, Ben Silverman, I’ll just watch something besides Kath & Kim, and I think a lot of other people will do the same.
    What a foolish idea.
    Tina Fey doesn’t “love American Express,” she realizes that to keep a show on the air you have to sacrifice some dignity in exchange for that Amex, Snapple, Verizon and Soyjoy money.
    Tim Kring doesn’t “love Nissan.” He loves the fact that putting Claire in that Nissan Rogue gave him the revenue he needed for better special effects shots.
    And neither of them minded the fact that saying yes to the major product placement deals gave them some leeway on ratings numbers.
    Still, I am not aware of any legitimate studies that have confirmed that product placement drives people to purchase. If you have one, send it to me.
    Personally, if the placement is too obvious, it only reminds me NOT to buy that product.

  2. NBC: Can we please have Kevin Reilly back?

  3. Amen Jon! What the hell??!! I guess poor people with no computers will just be SOL?

  4. Joe Bua for net president! Right on all counts. I’m not watching TV with my damn laptop in my lap. In fact, I’m just not watching much TV. Who has time?

  5. agreed to all commenters. hopefully soon programmers will realize the difference between “push” and “pull” technologies. most people prefer “push” (TV) over “pull” (internets) and networks that dilute their product TOO much will find themselves unable to survive the huge loss of ratings and revenue.

  6. When are the newtorks going to realize that the internet is a great marketing and advertising vehicle that is best used to drive eyeballs to television, not the reverse. The golden goose will be in original content with high production and creative values, produced specifically for the internet and not available on television. It hasn’t happened yet, but it will.

  7. Calling a tv show an “event” is hardly a prediction of a new form or a fitting future of network television.
    What will undoubtedly happen is for the nets in many ways to return tv to the unique medium originally developed by the likes of Pat Weaver and other pioneers.
    TV was designed to deliver news, entertainment, sports, special events to viewers mostly live as no other mass communications medium could. The result in Pat Weaver’s case was to create such programs as Today, Tonight, Home, Wide Wide World, the TV Spectacular and other outstanding formats. Each delivered programming then, and in the case of Today and Tonight to this very day, that was fresh and entertaining.
    This approach remains the answer for the future. Borrowing from the political world– It’s all about the programming, stupid.
    The national TV networks alone remain capable of reaching 100% of US homes at any time of the day or night with new programs. However, to capture the nation’s viewers, network’s must develop programmers who have the necessary skills and creativity to appeal to a mass audience. It will always remain a question of programmers’ talent – the key factor which has been sadly in short supply over the last several years, as seen from the lack of any new successful comedy shows and only several standout dramatic efforts.
    As in the earliest days of the medium… novel, entertaining, even exciting programming, whether its called an event, show, spectacular, whatever, will determine the success of network tv.

  8. Ben Silverman’s no Brandon Tartikoff that’s for sure…he might be out as quick as Fred Silverman was with Supertrain…

  9. In one episode of 30 Rock, Tina Fey’s character uncomfortably delivered a forced plug for Verizon that was dripping with sarcasm, and at the end of said plug she looked straight into the camera and said “Can we have our money now?”
    Hilarious, yes…but a “friend of advertisers?”

  10. When can we have a network devoted to online content? Not encoded warmed over television stuff. The problem is computers are a “lean forward” device, all of the content we are being force fed is “lean back” sofa stuff. Gimme interactivity or gimme death.
    I gotta a great Video Phone

  11. Even if Tina Fey doesn’t really love America Express, if American Express really loves Ben Silverman’s ideas, and gives more $$$ then that’s good news for everybody.
    And didn’t this interview with Mr. Silverman take place at a conference for advertisers?

  12. Just imagine someone in the early 70s enjoying Happy Days or Welcome Back Kotter. Do you think they would have predicted the Doppler 10000 HD Weathercam or Helicopter police pursuits every night on every station? Obviously, there is no guarantee that tv improves over time. What seems to be true however is that fragmentation is happening and is mostly encouraged by advertisers. Broadcast networks have stagnated while cable has grown. I think cable just has a much easier job in branding itself and targeting its viewers. I can imagine broadcast tv being the “Shopping Center” of the future, a meeting place for various brands and concepts. ABC seems to be pursuing this with its sports shows branded as “ESPN” programming. The network would be an amalgamation of brands from sports, comedy, kids news, adult, etc.
    Truth is, viewers are more diverse than ever. Older viewers enjoy watching drama after drama on CBS while younger viewers google actors and names while watching the Surreal Life. The broadcast networks have a large challenge ahead of them, but rather than looking for the common denominator should look to build their brands and then join them in meaningful ways.

  13. I meant early 80s, but who cares.

  14. What the hell is this idiot talking about? Television is going to make a big comeback when the recession hits big time and nobody can afford the DSL, Cable, and Satellite hookups anymore.
    It is time to bring back quality: good scripts, great actors, and few commercials. Nobody is going to be able to buy anything so back off with products. Who is this stupid little kid running NBC? No wonder television is dying.

  15. ok, seriously, everyone here needs to take a reality check and think like a digital business from silicon valley. the content business, in all platforms, is struggling to find its way to the viewers who are looking for all content all the time and in a format and device they want when they want it..the trick has and will continue to be how to monetize this since money is what drives all of the great talent mentioned above…this is no small task and there are a lot of options..i applaud ben and nbc for trying to evolve. much like the early days of the internet, there will be successes and failures..you learn more from your failures that you do from successes..thats what created microsoft, yahoo, google, oracle, dell..learning from failure is rewarded and treated as a badge of honor…i could go on with many other examples…that mentality needs to be adopted in hollywood (and i dont mean failing upwards)…trying something new and figuring out a new way is what the 2.0 generation s about..time for everyone here to catch up and support people who are trying to figure out how to move the business forward..everyone else is clinging on to a model that is past its time and will soon be defunct….

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