Shakeup at NBC: Jeff Gaspin promoted, Ben Silverman goes to IAC with Barry Diller
Ending two years of melodrama, NBC Universal executive Ben Silverman is leaving to form a new venture with new-media mogul Barry Diller. Jeff Gaspin, who had been head of NBC's cable group, will now become the top television entertainment executive at NBC.
The departure of Silverman after such a short stint -- even by Hollywood standards -- was not surprising. In his brief run at the network, he became almost as well known for the gossip around him as he was for the struggles of the network's lineup under him.
Silverman and Diller, who have long ties, announced they are creating a new company to "capitalize on the ever-evolving world of multimedia production and distribution, leveraging unique marketing expertise." Diller, whose company IAC/Interactive Corp. is a far-flung array of Internet properties, said in a statement that Silverman will lead the creation of a "truly integrated and truly interactive new-media production entity, a next-generation enterprise that bridges the gap between traditional television and the Internet."
Gaspin takes over the top spot with little time to have any effect on NBC's fall schedule. Silverman is going to stay at NBC through the launch of the fall slate. NBC has been struggling the last few years and is currently trailing its rivals in viewers and the key demographic of adults ages 18 to 49.
The hope is that Gaspin will bring a steady hand to an operation that has struggled to develop new hits and has been dealing with constant speculation about internal turmoil regarding Silverman's commitment to the job.
NBC Universal had been gradually taking away turf from Silverman for more than a year. Most recently, Angela Bromstad was named head of prime time, which had been Silverman's primary responsibility.
Most recently, Silverman was focused on advertising and marketing for the network. Last week though he caught a little flack when he prematurely said at an industry conference that a big deal the network was working with media buyer Group M was done.
The deal had not been completed yet and NBC issued a statement contradicting Silverman's remarks and also took some heat from Group M about the incident.
Marc Graboff, who had been co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Studios along with Silverman will keep his title but now reports to Gaspin, whose title of chairman NBC Universal Television Entertainment is a new one at the company. Gaspin will report to NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker.
In a statement Zucker said Gaspin has "the business acumen necessary to succeed in today's media environment." As for Silverman, Zucker said, "Ben brought us tremendous new thinking in this changing media age and we're grateful for that."
Working with Diller should give Silverman an opportunity to return to his entrepreneurial roots. Diller has been a backer of Silverman for many years and was an investor in Silverman's old production company Reveille.
-- Joe Flint
Photos: Top Right: Ben Silverman/Credit: Fortune magazine. Bottom Left: Jeff Gaspin/Credit Mitchell Haaseth