Ad Execs Praise Silverman’s Efforts at NBC
Whatever Ben Silverman’s legacy in his two years running programming at NBC, many on Madison Avenue credit him with widening the role for advertisers on the broadcast TV in general.
Silverman said Monday he is leaving as NBC Entertainment co-chairman position to start a new digital content venture in partnership with Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp. Silverman is expected to depart in mid-September and is said to be hiring TV and ad executives.
“Look what he’s done at his age,” said Larry Novenstern, executive VP at Optimedia. “I wish my resume was so productive. Ben was looked to as a preferred partner in that NBC would do things no one else would, and [as a result] he helped loosen the strings at other networks.”
Silverman is credited with introducing NBC’s “inFront” presentations as a way to get ahead of the noise of the mid-May upfront week and bring advertisers into the program making process earlier.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters in May, Jay Leno joked about Silverman’s advocacy on the part of advertisers and the limits of his own willingness to do promotions as part of his new primetime show: “Ben is very enthusiastic. If it was up to Ben, I would be out there doing a monologue with a McDonald’s hat and a Budweiser jacket on.”
Silverman—who has close relationships ad chiefs at Pepsi, Subway, Microsoft and General Mills—got his first big advertiser-funded venture off the ground with business-world themed reality show The Restaurant, which drew a mixed reaction among TV players for its lingering shots of beer kegs and credit cards (it was supported by American Express, Coors and Mitsubishi).
The Restaurant was quickly followed by Blow Out, about a hair salon in California. Revlon and Lenscrafters supported the show as well as American Express. Both shows aired on Bravo and were produced out of Silverman’s own production company, Reveille, which was sold in 2008 for $125 million to Elisabeth Murdoch’s U.K. company Shine.
Jeff Gaspin, who is taking over Silverman’s network responsibilities commented, “I bought Ben’s very first show, The Restaurant, which was all advertiser-supported. So I actually learned a lot from Ben in how to work with advertisers. We followed that up with Blow Out. We did The Biggest Loser after that.”
More recently, Silverman championed a partnership with sandwich chain Subway to keep fan-favorite Chuck on NBC.
“His move makes a lot of sense,” said Jak Severson, a partner at entertainment shop Madison Road. “Digital is where the marketing dollars are.” (Research firm eMarketer projects web video ad dollars will reach $1.5 billion next year, a 42% increase.)
While rumors of Silverman’s exit have circulated for months, it’s unclear what finally decided the end for the two parties. Last week, Silverman took heat from the NBC Universal sales department for claiming that an upfront deal between NBC Universal and Group M had closed. Silverman was speaking at a Fortune magazine event in Pasadena. According to NBCU and Group M officials, the negotiations continue; other executives say the pact is essentially wrapped.
“I don’t think his legacy is final. It will pan out over the next few years,” added Novenstern. Mark Koops, managing director at Reveille added, “He’s got great vision and has had undoubted success, and we look forward to working with him. I have no doubt the Ben Silverman story is in the formative stages of being told.”
Contributing: Marisa Guthrie