Network executive keeps company
COOKING THE PEACOCK: The stumbling succession of Ben Silverman to the head of entertainment at NBC continues with sickening steadiness, as reported by Nikki Finke of L.A. Weekly, the best source of news on the story – she was the one, after all, who confidently predicted NBC head honcho Jeff Zucker’s sacking of Kevin Reilly for Silverman last week, a story that she was scolded for leaking precipitously before the disapproval turned into a race to catch up with the breaking story.
Now the news has broken that Silverman will not have to sell or give up managing Reveille, the successful production company that developed The Biggest Loser and The Office for NBC, despite obvious conflicts of interest in heading programming for a major network and owning a production company that sells it content.
“Who are they kidding?” Fine wrote in her Deadline Hollywood column for L.A Weekly yesterday. “This sweet arrangement of letting Ben have his cake and eat it too is unworkable. And NBC knows this based on very sour past experiences.”
Unwilling to look like he was raiding the corporate piggy bank to pay out Reilly’s golden parachute and get Silverman on board, Zucker apparently did little more than extend Reveille’s deal with NBC for another two years, leaving the company independent, with Silverman retaining his interest while getting one of his execs to run it as a blind trust as long as he’s in charge at NBC. As Noah said, does something smell fishy in here?
Finke turns on the wayback machine and gives a tour of the every time NBC has tried to do this in the past. The biggest foul-up was when Don Ohlmeyer was Silverman’s job by NBC, back in 1993, and insisted that Ohlmeyer’s production company, which had valuable entertainment and sports franchises like the Indy 500, would be put under someone else’s direction and run “at arm’s length.” Six weeks later, Ohlmeyer’s company had to divest itself of its valuable sports franchises after a media outcry that – as far as Finke can see – doesn’t seem to be happening with Silverman, even though Ohlmeyer was programming entertainment, not sports, while Silverman is in charge of buying exactly the sort of shows that Reveille produces.
Previous to Ohlmeyer, Dick Ebersol and Grant Tinker had to get rid of lucrative franchises and even sell their interest in production companies they created (Tinker founded MTM with his former wife, Mary Tyler Moore) to banish charges of conflicts of interest. If this is proof of anything, it’s that the sort of money floating around Hollywood is so massive that no embarrassment of craven, witless business decisions can stop people like Zucker, Reilly and Silverman from getting rich while doing the sorts of things that would get a hot dog stand shut down.