Media X: Peacocked

I have seen the future of network television. You won't like it.

And here's the beauty part: Network TV will be saved by the two most pilloried executives in network TV. One of our antiheroes is tall and gangly and attracts detractors like shrimp cocktails attract media buyers. But he could sell mezuzahs to mullahs.

The other savior of the small screen is short and bald and has a knack for snappy but snarky sound bites. But he knows television like Nadya Suleman knows crazy.

And while the rest of you Einsteins are making smug predictions about the duo's downfall over lunch at the Grill and writing potty jokes about their failures on Nikki Finke's Web site, Jeff Zucker and Ben Silverman are positioning NBC to dance on your graves.

True, the president and CEO of NBC Universal and co-chairman, NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio, respectively, have not restored the faded peacock to its perennially powerful position among its broadcast network peers. But that, my fuzzy little chickadees, is exactly the point.



I suspect at least some of what we've seen from the Ben and Jeffrey show is as much bumbling and stumbling from typically outsized TV egos as it is prescient industry strategy. But I also believe the twosome share an understanding that the networks don't just need to be re-imagined.

They need to die -- and then be reborn in a form that works for a new age.

Of course, rivals can also read the Chyron on the wall. Adapt or die is every net exec's new mantra. They all talk it. Some have taken mincing baby steps toward it.

But Zucker and Silverman are walking it with a vengeance.

First there was Hulu. OK, even Zucker famously admitted it will be a long time before streaming shows online makes as much money as ad-supported free TV. But you do know that long-form programming is the fastest-growing method of viewing video on the Internet, don't you? Because if you don't, I suggest you get out of the business and go buy a bed and breakfast in Vermont.

Then, NBC didn't need no stinking pilots. True, that didn't work so well, either, but nothing in the media world is as hopelessly broken as the networks' current economic model. So what did the peacock have to lose? Breakthroughs are built on experiments -- especially the ones that fail.

Meanwhile, Silverman is dropping brands into his programming like Charles Barkley drops money at the blackjack tables in Caesar's Palace. Can you really argue that product integration is essential if network TV is to survive?

And then: Leno at 10. You know what? That's fucking brilliant. I don't need to watch another crime procedural in prime time. Besides, all the best-scripted stuff is on cable. Even Zucker's "damn the ratings, it's all about profits" declaration doesn't look so self-serving, now that the Dow is down to Dumont TV-era levels, does it?

All this bitchy dishing on NBC is hypocritical bullshit. If I were the boys' enemies, I'd stop snickering and start listening.

Even if -- OK, this is television -- its creators are fired, the Ben and Jeffrey show is going to be a business hit. Because it's the future.

Whether you like it or not.

Next story loading loading..