Ben Silverman Era Begins At NBC

After a wild weekend of rumors, NBC Universal confirmed Tuesday that Silverman, founder and CEO of Reveille, will move into the co-chairman role at NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studios (NUTS) alongside Marc Graboff, and that Kevin Reilly will be exiting as NBC Entertainment president.

And NBC Universal president and CEO Jeff Zucker on Tuesday claimed his decision to bring in Silverman and let Reilly depart had nothing to do with any negative reaction to the network’s new slate.

“The timing of this announcement has nothing to do with the upfront announcement or the fall schedule,” Zucker maintained during a conference call with media members Tuesday.“The timing of this announcement is because Ben Silverman became available in the last two weeks.”

Zucker said he and Silverman met 10 days ago to discuss regular matters under the umbrella of the NBC U-Reveille deal and that during that meeting Silverman expressed an interest in a new career path.Matters picked up when Silverman convinced NBC U he had interest from other potential suitors.

“If we hadn’t done it now, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get Ben,” Zucker says.

The network then had to rush the announcement after word of the talks first surfaced on Friday.

However, the network will not be buying into Reveille at this point, as previously expected.

Instead, Reveille will remain independent for now and NBCU extended by two years a previous deal with Reveille that gave both the broadcast network and the company’s cable properties a first look at all scripted and unscripted projects.

Silverman will no longer be financially involved in any new projects at the production outfit. He said a management announcement was imminent about the future of Reveille, which was said to be in play for some time now.

As for the corporate structure, NBCU said that Silverman and Graboff will have responsibility for all aspects of the network’s prime time, late-night and daytime programming, and will also oversee the entertainment division’s digital efforts, including They will also oversee the network and television studio’s creative, marketing, business, and financial components.

Graboff will handle areas such as those related to business, finance, operations and administration while Silverman will oversee creative, programming, scheduling and marketing.

Zucker also addressed Graboff’s continued but diminished role. “Marc is a proven and respected executive whose wealth of expertise in so many divisions will continue to be a huge plus in this realignment,” Zucker said.

NBC credits Silverman, a former agent who now produces NBC’s The Office, ABC’s Ugly Betty and reality series such as NBC’s The Biggest Loser, for bringing Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and Big Brother to the U.S. 

Graboff, who was named president, NBC Universal Television, West Coast, in February—taking on oversight of creative then--will also continue to run NBCU Domestic TV Distribution. Barry Wallach, President, Domestic TV Distribution, will continue to report to Graboff.

Among Silverman’s first tasks will be putting together his executive team, which will include a new head of creative at the studio.

Current studio chief Angela Bromstad, who has basically been out of her job all year, is still expected to remain with the organization in some way, most likely focusing on the international production side of the business should she accept a role in London.

The future is less certain for Reilly’s former number two, Katherine Pope.She had become frustrated and basically resigned last week after learning NBC U was not going to merge its network and studio, a strategy toward which it had been leaning. Pope was in line to assume a larger role on the heels of that shift.

Now it remains to be seen whether the highly-regarded executive will remain in the fold, and if so what role she would assume.Zucker maintained Tuesday Pope will remain with the company.

“Ben is now going to have those conversations with her as he puts together his team and his structure and figures out what the best structure is for him,” Zucker says.

She may be a good fit for the studio role that she had previously desired under the Reilly-Bromstad regime.

Sources also said that Reveille’s Teri Weinberg could be headed to NBC U as the first Reveille alum to work under Silverman in his new role.

The early feedback from Madison Avenue was also relatively positive, with advertising executives saying the move shouldn’t have much of a negative effect on NBC’s upfront selling prospects, with not much change expected to its fall schedule in the wake of the shake-up.

Initial reaction from the ad community also includes a sense of optimism about Silverman’s familiarity with its needs given his track record of heavy branded integration in his projects.

As for Reilly, he recently signed a new three-year deal with the network, which will buy out the highly-regarded programmer once terms are finalized.

While Reilly and the network came under fire after the upfronts, his supporters note he has been forced to operate amidst drastic budget cuts under the “NBC 2.0” umbrella.

For instance, NBC only ordered comedy pilots from its own studio.

Despite that environment and ongoing questions about his job security before and after his recent deal, Reilly developed the lone game-changing ratings hit of last season, Heroes, and has championed critically-acclaimed fare including The Office, 30 Rock and Friday Night Lights.

With that, he had plenty of backers singing his praises over the weekend, including friend and rival Steve McPherson, head of ABC Entertainment.

“The treatment he has gotten has been disgusting,” McPherson says of Reilly’s time at NBC U.“He brought back quality, class and success over there and put his balls on the line better than anyone in the business, myself included. I don’t know what more you can ask for.”

McPherson says that Reilly is taking the blame for problems that went beyond his control.

“How many scapegoats do you get, is there a limit on scapegoats?” he says.“To do these jobs effectively, you have to be given the support and control for good or bad. It certainly never appeared he got that.”