Barry and Ben in business together again
Mogul Barry Diller, who last week at an industry conference warned that the transition from old media to new media will get "bloody," is betting on Ben Silverman to figure it all out.
Cutting through all the industry speak about platforms, silos, integrated content and 360 degrees that fills the press release announcing their new company, what we basically have is an advertising and marketing agency.
Silverman, who is ending a stormy two-year run as co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, said in an interview he wants to build "big-time opportunities that transcend any single medium." He added that "More and more of the advertisers need help to get attention" and that he wants to "break down walls" and "connect dots." Silverman has coined his new venture a combination of Warner Bros. and BBDO, the giant ad agency.
In a statement, Diller said the new venture's goal is to "create a truly integrated and truly interactive new media production entity ... that bridges the gap between traditional television and the Internet."
The new entity reunites Silverman with Diller, who was an investor in Silverman's old production company Reveille. His stake was later bought out by NBC Universal for $8.2 million. The as-yet-unnamed company will be a privately held venture that will count Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp. as an investor. Other investors will be brought in as well, including possibly NBC Universal.
In Silverman, Diller gets a well-connected, globe-trotting entrepreneur with a knack for packaging shows and advertisers, particularly in reality shows such as NBC's "The Biggest Loser" and Bravo's "Blow Out."
He also gets an executive whose personality was never a good fit for corporate life at General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal. Silverman's tenure at the network was more notable for the compelling drama going on in the executive suites than it was for the programming on the air. His brief reign was filled with gossip about missed meetings, a late-night lifestyle and constant fights with agents and producers.
Much of that would have been overlooked if NBC's ratings were better, but the network is still stuck in fourth place in viewers and the key adult demographics that advertisers covet. Silverman wasn't helped by the fact that much of his time as head of NBC Entertainment was marred by labor strife.
"At end of the day, all that matters is results and obviously NBC is not where they want to be," said Peter Tortorici, global CEO of GroupM Entertainment, a unit of the large media buying firm GroupM.
Acknowledging that his style didn't mesh at NBC, Silverman said, "being able to create a culture is probably what I'm best suited to do as opposed to trying to change a culture, which is a lot harder than I thought." He added, "In these senior executive jobs you become a manager a lot more than an idea generator."
-- Joe Flint
Photos: Top left: Barry Diller. Credit: Joe Tabacca/Bloomberg. Bottom right: Ben Silverman. Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC