Ben Silverman, the co-chairman of NBC Universal Entertainment, is leaving the company to start up a new venture in partnership with Barry Diller’s media and Internet company, IAC.The news was announced by IAC and Mr. Silverman Monday morning. At the same time, NBC announced that Jeff Gaspin, who has headed NBCU’s cable operations, will also assume Mr. Silverman’s role.
Silverman’s leadership of NBC is often compared to that of another Silverman, Fred, who also took over NBC when it was struggling and managed to make its programming even worse, greenlighting many horrible gimmick shows (Pink Lady and Jeff, Supertrain) and just plain run-of-the-mill bad shows (Hello, Larry). And when Fred Silverman left NBC, he also started a new company to focus on television production.
After Fred Silverman left NBC, it eventually became apparent that he had actually not done as badly as people thought; his decision to move NBC away from chase-y action drama and toward a mix of sitcoms and serialized dramas (Hill Street Blues) would pay off big time for the network after his departure, as did his decision to give David Letterman a big contract. Maybe it will turn out that some of Ben Silverman’s decisions also pay dividends for NBC after he’s gone. But for now, it’s safe to make fun of him.