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NBC Affiliates Ho-Hum on Silverman Departure

Managers at NBC affiliates greeted word of NBC Entertainment co-chair Ben Silverman’s departure with a mix of apathy and hope that the shakeup might, in turn, goose NBC’s long-dormant primetime performance. Several general managers stressed that two years was not enough time to accurately judge Silverman’s job performance, especially with NBC’s primetime woes seemingly so entrenched.

But others said some new perspective atop NBC’s creative pyramid could only help. “I think it’s going to be a positive,” says KSHB Kansas City VP/General Manager Craig Allison. “Hopefully someone else with a more creative approach and a new set of eyes can create two or three breakout hits for us.”

NBC affiliates board chairman Michael Fiorile did not return requests for comment at presstime.

An agent and producer prior to his time at NBC, Silverman leaves to start a new company with Barry Diller’s IAC. Jeff Gaspin, who has presided over NBC Universal's booming cable properties, expands his oversight to the broadcast network and Universal Media Studios.

Several NBC affiliate managers, who have thrived for years with their primetime at or near the bottom locally, said the network shakeup barely registers a blip on their radar screens. “It really doesn’t filter down to the station level,” says WLBT Jackson, Miss., VP/General Manager Dan Modisett. “We didn’t see an upswing when Ben came on board, and don’t think we’ll see a downswing when he leaves.”

Some general managers atop NBC stations commended Silverman for his different approach, and say a successful Jay Leno Show this fall will make for a somewhat favorable legacy for him. But all say it comes down to ratings performance, and that the numbers under Silverman clearly weren’t cutting it.

“I certainly applaud his willingness to try new things,” says WHO Des Moines Regional VP/General Manager Dale Woods. “But you look at the results of the primetime lineup, and say it just didn’t work.”