NBC's strongest link
Gaspin joins as exec VP; VH1 fills his slot with Graver
By Joe Schlosser and Allison Romano -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/13/2001 8:00:00 PM
VH1's man behind the music is now NBC's strongest link to becoming a player on the reality front. Jeff Gaspin returns to NBC, this time as its new executive vice president of alternative and long-form programming but really the executive who will try to make up for the network's lost time in the reality field.
Although Weakest Link has scored some early ratings success, NBC has all but missed the boat on reality and watched CBS' Survivor and ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? eat into its core audience numbers.
Fred Graver, the former head of VH1's Internet group, succeeds Gaspin as executive vice president for programming and production at the cable network.
Gaspin, who worked at NBC News before joining VH1, will oversee reality shows and NBC's movie and miniseries department—two divisions headed in very different directions. NBC is ramping up reality production, while scaling back considerably on original movie production. The network may have only one miniseries next season and a half dozen original movies.
Gaspin says his background at NBC News played a big part in his return, as did the hiring of former Today executive producer Jeff Zucker as NBC's new entertainment president. (Also, last week, news President Andrew Lack was named president of NBC, and Neal Shapiro was dubbed news chief. See Top of the Week.)
"Certainly for the last five years, I've had a great run at VH1, but I felt like I needed a bigger playing field to play in than just music," says Gaspin, formerly VH1's executive vice president, programming and production. "I was brought to VH1 as a TV guy, not as a music guy."
Gaspin has gotten a crash course in reality, taking close to 60 pitch meetings in the three weeks since rejoining NBC. "I wanted to open myself up to the community, so I've let just about everybody and their mother come in."
Gaspin isn't a novice in dealing with reality producers by any stretch. While at NBC News, he helped launch Dateline NBC and produced one of the original prime time reality shows, I Witness Video. While at VH1, he took reality ideas and crossed them with music, producing such series as Bands on the Run. Gaspin also says he attempted to bring Weakest Link to VH1 before it came to NBC.
He has made some moves, slotting two Endemol reality projects, Fear Factor and Spy TV, for this summer. The network has also ordered 13 episodes of Trial & Error from Law & Order producer Dick Wolf, a real-life version of the drama series, set in San Diego, and 13 episodes of Dog Eat Dog, a British studio-based quiz show.
At VH1.com, Graver tempted music fans with enhanced offerings online. Now he'll try to lure those fans back to television. "Our audience has changed in the last year and a half," he says. "They've been able to get music and pursue their passion for it on the Internet. Our programming will bring them back."
Graver, a veteran TV writer and producer, says VH1 needs to focus its programming on contemporary music.
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