In a move that didn’t surprise many in Hollywood, NBC announced yesterday that Ben Silverman, the network’s entertainment co-chairman, would be leaving the company and would be replaced by Jeff Gaspin. The new honcho adds the oversight of NBC to his current duties managing the company’s entertainment-focused cable networks, which include USA, Oxygen, and Bravo.
In talking to EW about the future of NBC amid the executive shuffle, Gaspin said his new role will have him most involved in three areas: launching a fall season, launching Jay Leno, and moving into the new development season. Despite the network slumping into fourth place behind CBS, Fox, and ABC, Gaspin doesn’t seem to be planning any big changes — at least yet. The new entertainment chief assured fans of NBC faves like The Office, 30 Rock, and The Biggest Loser that NBC’s current fall schedule won’t be altered, even though it’s a schedule that was laid out by his fallen predecessor. “We’re going to focus on Jay Leno and launching the fall season,” he added. “I don’t see any changes within that.”
Gaspin was careful not to take any shots at Silverman, who was the subject of scrutiny since he took over the job in 2007. In fact, Gaspin indicated that NBC would continue to be in business with his predecessor, who simultaneously announced yesterday that he would head back to producing via a new company at Barry Diller’s IAC. Before his executive position at NBC, Silverman headed production company Reveille, which Diller also invested in before it was sold in 2007. Gaspin pointed out: “I bought Ben’s first show, The Restaurant. I believe I bought his second show, Blow Out, and, as I recall, I bought his third show, The Biggest Loser. And NBC bought his fourth show, The Office, so NBC and Ben have had a lot of success together, and I suspect Ben will want to continue that relationship.” However, no formal first-look deal is in place between NBC and Silverman’s new, yet-to-be-named production company.
As for Silverman’s legacy at NBC, Gaspin admitted that the former executive leaves behind a culture of what he calls “embracing the advertiser.” Silverman was legendary at NBC for integrating products and advertisers into shows, like putting General Motors cars into last fall’s My Own Worst Enemy, various product placement on 30 Rock (think: Soy Joy), and an innovative deal struck with Subway for Chuck. “I think Ben taught all of us — myself included — to make [advertisers] our partner, and frankly, it’s something that I learned from cable. I would say that will be his legacy for us at NBC.”
For more on the changes at NBC and what they mean for you as a viewer of the network’s shows, pick up the newest issue of Entertainment Weekly, which will hit stands on Friday, July 31.
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