Tuesday, May 29, 2007


NBC taps 'Office' producer to head programming

Ben Silverman is named co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio.

By Meg James
Times Staff Writer

12:45 PM PDT, May 29, 2007

Frustrated after being stuck in the ratings cellar for three brutal TV seasons, NBC Universal today hired up-and-coming producer Ben Silverman in hopes of restoring the network to its former glory.

The onetime William Morris talent agent was named co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio. Silverman will share the job with Marc Graboff, who is currently the highest-ranking NBC executive on the West Coast.

NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker flew to Los Angeles on Monday to wrap up a frenetic weekend of negotiations.

"I always thought this was the right job for Ben," Zucker said in a statement. "This new role will give him the opportunity to redefine our programming, our relationship with advertisers and our ongoing commitment to the new digital frontier."

NBC had not been planning to make such a move so soon. But last week, word leaked that Zucker was planning to replace Kevin Reilly, the NBC Entertainment president who just signed a new three-year contract in March. The company said today that NBC and Reilly had "mutually agreed to end their relationship."

After the network's prime-time ratings withered this spring, executives decided to make a dramatic change. They apparently believed that the new shows Reilly developed to launch this fall -- including a remake of the 1970s hit "Bionic Woman" -- would not be enough to lift the network in the ratings.

It's unclear whether NBC will merge NBC Entertainment with NBC Universal Television Studio, which it acquired three years ago. NBC had been considering the move.

The studio's current president, Angela Bromstad, is expected to take another job in the company.

Also unclear is the fate of Katherine Pope, Reilly's second in command at the network, who nurtured NBC's biggest new hit, "Heroes."

If the company went ahead with the merger, NBC Universal Television Studio would be less inclined to sell shows to other networks, such as Fox Broadcasting or Walt Disney Co.'s ABC. That would be a retrenchment by the General Electric Co.-owned unit, which produces "House," one of Fox's biggest hits.

Silverman is currently chief executive of Reveille, a company he founded. Through Reveille, Silverman is executive producer of NBC's Emmy Award-winning comedy hit "The Office" and of the ABC series "Ugly Betty."

In addition, Silverman is the co-creator and executive producer of the reality show "The Biggest Loser" on NBC, USA Network's "Nashville Star" and "Blow Out" on Bravo. His other projects include "Date My Mom" and "Parental Control" for MTV and the series "30 Days" for the FX cable channel.