On May 14, NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly assured advertisers at the annual upfronts presentations in New York that the network’s new shows — like an update of Bionic Woman and a Heroes spin-off — could pull the Peacock out of fourth place. Now he’s looking for a new job. On May 29, the 44-year-old executive — who launched hits like Heroes and Deal or No Deal — left after the sudden hire of hotshot agent-turned-independent TV producer Ben Silverman, who has never worked at a network. Silverman, 36, joins NBC vet Marc Graboff as co-chair of NBC’s Entertainment division and sister production unit NBC Universal TV.
Industry reaction was generally favorable, given Silverman’s record as a hitmaker. His production company, Reveille, is responsible for The Office, ABC’s Ugly Betty, and Showtime’s The Tudors, among others. (Reveille maintains its first-look deal with NBC Universal and will continue without him.) ”He looks beyond television,” says Aaron Kaplan, senior VP of TV programming at William Morris Agency. ”He looks at digital applications, advertisers, the international business — that makes him a more interesting choice than the traditional developer.”
But there was equal sympathy for Reilly, who’s been dogged by departure rumors since rejoining NBC in 2003. It’s unclear where he’ll land next, and HBO denied rumors that it was talking with him. If it’s any consolation, NBC must now pay Reilly severance to make good on the three-year, multimillion-dollar deal he signed in March. Silverman, meanwhile, has no current plans to hire a replacement for Reilly nor does he want to change the fall schedule: ”I’m looking to make sure those shows get seen by everybody. I want to bring back big broadcast fun for the whole family.”