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Ben Silverman out as head of entertainment at NBC -- finally



Ben.silverman The press release from NBC, which may have caught the entertainment press by surprise this morning, typically buries the most important information.

While announcing that former VH1 executive Jeff Gaspin will be taking over in the new job of chairman, NBC Universal Entertainment, a paragraph much further down notes that current entertainment co-chair Ben Silverman "will be returning to his entrepreneurial roots" after the network's fall schedule is launched. See Variety's story here.

This seems to be a major scalp for the entertainment press, which questioned Silverman's experience, abilities, work habits and judgment from the moment his unusual hiring was announced.

Credited as the talent executive on the cutting edge of bringing foreign reality TV concepts to American television, Silverman seemed an odd choice to take over NBC's programming efforts, as the network struggled to pull out of fourth place in the ratings. Here's the NYT's take on his ups and downs from a couple of months ago.

Kitt_rider Unfortunately, Silverman didn't help much, greenlighting an array of expensive scripted dramas that tanked quickly, including a Knight Rider remake, Christian Slater's My Own Worst Enemy, a Bionic Woman remake and the Biblical drama that never dared mention its roots in the Bible, Kings.

Now, as the network scrambles to make a success of its decision handing 10 p.m. to Jay Leno, Silverman is being shown the door. It's interesting that his replacement, Gaspin, will not share the chairman's title with another executive, as Silverman did. Instead, Silverman's co-chair, Marc Graboff, will report to Gaspin -- an old TV hand who has been running the network's cable channels for a while.

Click below to read NBC's press release on it all.



UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - July 27, 2009 - Jeff Gaspin has been named Chairman, NBC Universal Television Entertainment, effective immediately. This move expands his role to now include oversight of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, in addition to all of his current duties. This new structure will consolidate all of the company's television entertainment assets, both broadcast and cable, English and Spanish, under one roof and will better allow the company to leverage its content across all of those properties.

Gaspin already has management responsibility for the company's portfolio of entertainment cable networks, including USA, SyFy, Bravo, Oxygen, Universal HD, Sleuth, and Chiller, as well as its interests in the A&E and History networks. In addition, Gaspin oversees the company's television distribution, including linear, digital and wireless, off-net syndication and first-run efforts, as well as the Telemundo broadcast network and its owned stations.

Ben Silverman, who has been Co-Chairman, NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, has announced that he is returning to his entrepreneurial roots to form a new venture. He will remain in his current role for several weeks to assist in the launch of NBC's fall schedule. Marc Graboff, who has also been Co-Chairman, will continue as Chairman, NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, reporting to Gaspin.

These announcements were made today by Jeff Zucker, President and CEO, NBC Universal, to whom Gaspin reports.

Said Zucker: "Jeff Gaspin is an extraordinary media professional who has had an incredible record of success in his 25 years in the business. He's a strong creative executive who also has the business acumen necessary to succeed in today's media environment. This new structure helps us align all of our television entertainment assets under one veteran executive at a time when continued innovation is essential."

Zucker added: "Ben Silverman has many exciting things he wants to accomplish and we applaud him as he sets off on his new endeavors. Ben brought us tremendous new thinking in this changing media age, and we're grateful for that. Now, we look forward to working with him in his new venture."

"I can't think of a more important time to take on this expanded role. Our industry is going through one of the most profound changes in history and I look forward to using all that I have learned to help build the NBC Universal assets through this period of unprecedented evolution," said Gaspin. "NBC remains one of the strongest brands in television and I am excited to work with the talented executives at the network and Universal Media Studios."

Under the new structure, the cable and distribution executives who currently report to Gaspin will continue to do so. They include Bonnie Hammer (President, NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Universal Cable Productions), Lauren Zalaznick (President, NBC Universal Women and Lifestyle Entertainment Networks), Barry Wallach (President, NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution), Bridget Baker (President, TV Networks Distribution, NBC Universal), Don Browne (President, Telemundo) and J.B Perrette (President, Digital and Affiliate Distribution and Content Distribution Strategy).

The cable entertainment group, which includes Bravo, Chiller, Oxygen, Syfy, Sleuth, Universal HD and the USA Network, has experienced dynamic change under Gaspin's leadership. In 2007, the group acquired Oxygen, and in 2008, sold its interest in the Sundance Channel and established the Universal Cable Productions television studio, further bolstering the company's commitment to a strong cable portfolio. Each channel broke ratings records in 2008 and revenues and profits have exhibited double-digit growth under Gaspin's watch.

Previously, Gaspin had served as President and Chief Operating Officer of the Universal Television Group since February 2007. Under Gaspin, the NBC Universal entertainment cable division posted its strongest performance ever. And with Gaspin being an early proponent of online streaming video, traffic to all of the television group's entertainment websites more than doubled. Prior to that, Gaspin served as President of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Cross-Network Strategy since 2004, adding digital content to his responsibilities in November 2005.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 3:00pm]


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