With Melissa Grego and Alex Weprin
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'Beijing Ben' Silverman's Olympic Glory
"Oh! Fireworks! Live! On air!! Oh, my— Holy Cow!!!"
If you've been relying on Bob Costas or Matt Lauer or any of NBC's ubiquitous platforms for your Beijing Olympics coverage, then you've been missing the high-octane reportage of Ben Silverman on KIIS-FM in L.A.
The voluble NBC co-chairman is on the scene in China, where he's been phoning in daily dispatches on the Olympics experience for On-Air With Ryan Seacrest.
Dubbed "Beijing Ben" by host Ryan Seacrest, Silverman has treated KIIS listeners to live color commentary on the open ceremonies' pyrotechnics (see above), as well as accounts of his gastronomic adventures ("dim sum and then some") and sightseeing excursions to the Great Wall and the tomb of the Terracotta Warriors.
"The Great Wall is an understatement," Silverman reported. "It's the 'Awesome Wall!'"
The gig has produced some priceless banter between Seacrest and Silverman, who admitted that he'd been misidentifying Beijing's so-called Bird's Nest Olympic stadium.
"I've been calling it the 'Bird Cage,'" he said, "which I realize is something in West Hollywood."
Recounting some proverbs he learned from his Chinese guide, Silverman quipped, "Her name is Fun Fun, so you can imagine how much fun-fun Fun Fun is."
"I think I met her in Vegas," Seacrest replied.
After Seacrest joked Thursday that NBC has been showing promos for its new comedy Kath and Kim "every 10 minutes," things got surreal when he resumed a running game of fill-in-the-blank free association.
"I am your horse," Seacrest began, "you are my—"
"Chariot?" Silverman replied.
"I am your Kath, you are my—"
Returning the volley, Silverman offered, "I am your warrior, you are my—"
"Emperor!" said Seacrest, who then closed out the round with birthday wishes for Silverman (he turned 38 last week).
"You are my cake, I am your candle," he said. "Happy Birthday."
Perhaps "Seacrest Out," the host's signature catch-phrase on American Idol, will soon be eclipsed by "This is Beijing Ben Silverman signing off."
When News Goes Social
By now television networks ought to know the hazards of dabbling in social networking Websites.
While news networks have set up groups to attract young Web denizens (see page 2), many user-created groups don't always shine the most flattering light on networks or their personalities.
Facebook users in particular seem to enjoy creating network-related groups like "I Watch Comedy Central for My News and Fox News for My Comedy" and "Anderson Cooper, Bringing Sexy Back to CNN."
"That is part of playing the game that is Facebook and the Internet in general," says Catherine Captain, VP of marketing for MSNBC.com. "Playful Keith Olbermann pages are one thing. But if there was anything hateful or inappropriate, we may be more inclined to take action."
Not only do the networks have to deal with the mockery, but some industrious users actually create network-related applications that can one-up the real deal.
CNN's widget, which feeds headlines from CNN.com straight into user's profiles, has 686 monthly active users as of this writing. But CNN Breaking News, a third-party application that does the same thing, has more than 1,800.
"As long as people are not hurting the brand and are not in breach of the terms of service agreement, we don't have a problem with that," says Andy Mitchell, VP of interactive marketing for CNN.
CNN is working on a new version of the widget that it says will offer more interactivity than the current one.
Note to CNN: The kids loveScrabble.