Media Money with Julia Boorstin

The NBC "Shuffle" (And HBO Too)

Ben Silverman

NBC is hiring Ben Silverman, producer of "The Office" to partner with Marc Graboff, as co-chairmen of NBC Entertainment and the NBC Universal Television Studio. (GE is the parent company of NBC and CNBC).

The two will succeed the network's departing head of entertainment, Kevin Reilly. With ratings sinking--down 9% for the past six months over the year earlier period--the buck stops at Reilly. And even though NBC just recently renegotiated his contract for another three years, he's on his way out. NBC would rather pay out his remaining salary (or part of it) then have him in charge.

Silverman and his production company, Reveille Entertainment, have quite the golden track record. Silverman delivered NBC both "The Office", which won an Emmy for best comedy, and "The Biggest Loser", proof that he could tackle either scripted or reality programming. And his production company has also fattened the pockets of the other networks. He gave ABC "Ugly Betty," one of their most successful shows last season. He also helped make hits "Nashville Star" for USA and "Date My Mom" for MTV. NBC's hoping to harness the talents of this former talent agent, to make sure he doesn't share his skills.

So what happened? Broadcast networks usually change their chiefs BEFORE a network upfront presentation, so the new face can be there. Well, I was at the Network upfronts just two weeks ago, and the heat was on-- NBC finished yet another season in fourth place, despite a ratings surge in the fall. Historic lows, and a sense that Reilly wasn't willing enough to let go of shows that were critically acclaimed but ratings disappointments (see Friday Night Lights), got Reilly the boot. The sense that Silverman is the future--his ability to interact with overseas properties and shows--got him the job. That, balanced with Graboff's track record and experience, may be the winning combination.

Is HBO Close to finding Albrecht's Successor?
Time Warner's HBO has its own shuffle in the works. Sources say that HBO is close to replacing longtime HBO chief Chris Albrecht, who stepped down earlier this month, after a public scuffle with his girlfriend in Las Vegas. With HBO in a period of flux-- "The Sopranos" is about to air its final episode, with no obvious ratings-grabbing replacement in sight--Albrecht left big shoes to fill.

HBO has made COO Bill Nelson interim chief, while trying to nail down the official replacement. Sources close to the situation tell me that HBO has narrowed its executive search down to three candidates, and that Nelson is definitely the front runner.

What about NBC's Kevin Reilly? Even though he's just recently back on the job market, HBO is apparently NOT considering him to run HBO. My bet is that Nelson will formally get the gig. Time Warner says, no comment.

Questions?  Comments?