Silverman,Graboff Co-Chair NBC Entertainment, No Upfront Impact

The massive executive changes at the top of NBC--with executive producer Ben Silverman and NBC senior executive Marc Graboff becoming co-chairmen of NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio--are not expected to have any material affect on NBC's upfront advertising business.

"The programming is already set," says Lyle Schwartz, managing partner, director of broadcast research and marketplace analysis of GroupM. "Even if they move things around some, it doesn't make much of a difference."

David Joyce--an analyst with Miller Tabak, who had been bullish on the upfront and projected NBC's volume would jump 3.9% to $1.98 billion--said Tuesday he wasn't revising his estimates, based on the corporate reorganization.

"My opinion hasn't changed concerning the schedule," says Jason Kanefsky, senior vice president and group account director of national broadcast at media agency MPG. "It is still a fourth-place schedule. We have so many other issues to worry about. It may be in the top 10 [of issues], but it doesn't move to No. 1."



With regard to the upfront, Jeff Zucker, president and CEO of NBC Universal, said during the phone press conference that NBC shows were well-received, and these changes shouldn't affect NBC's upfront business.

The move comes just two weeks after Kevin Reilly--president of NBC Entertainment, who will be stepping down--announced some limited prime-time programming changes. They received a lukewarm press and critical reaction during the network's upfront presentation in New York to national advertising and media executives.

Why the sudden change--especially just after Reilly got a three-year extension? Internet buzz.

"This has to be some reaction to critical buzz," said Jordan Breslow, director of broadcast research at Group M's media agency, Mediacom. "Let's not discount how blogs work. Everyone has MySpace pages these days."

The biggest concern among media agency executives is why NBC made no changes to its already low-rated Thursday night schedule. Some analysts speculate that NBC, at the very least, should have considered moving its rookie hit show "Heroes" to Thursdays, possibly at 10 p.m.

Joyce questioned whether the new schedule with a "Heroes"-influenced sci-fi bent with new series such as "Journeyman" and a remake of "The Bionic Woman" would succeed in a network TV environment with an increasingly female-skewed audience. He said he and others were "scratching their heads why NBC is going after sci-fi shows, which tend to skew younger and male, which are tough to reach."

"There is certainly a comfort factor [with] a genre that is proving to be a hit," said Serge Del Grosso, managing director of media strategy at agency Lowe.

But don't look for NBC to make any big programming changes soon.

"The timing of the announcement has nothing to do with the upfront schedule," said Zucker. "We remain excited about our schedule. It is no reflection on our schedule." Zucker said he decided to go with Silverman because he became "available" and wanted to do something different with his career.

"I was looking at an opportunity to expand the company and grow it out," said Silverman. "In response, Jeff came at me aggressively. It was something I always wanted to do."

In their new roles, Silverman and Graboff will have responsibility for the network's prime-time, late-night and daytime programming.

Silverman is the founder and CEO of Reveille, a production company housed at NBC Universal. Earlier this year, Reveille entered into a new deal with NBC Universal that gave both the broadcast network and the company's cable properties a first look at all scripted and unscripted projects. That deal is now extended for two more years.

Silverman said he didn't want to sell his production company. He noted that going forward, he won't have any day-to-day responsibility of future projects.

NBC has been known to make immediate changes after the upfront presentations.

Last year, NBC had planned to run "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" at 9 p.m. on Thursday night. But with ABC's plan to move its powerhouse "Grey's Anatomy" to that same time slot to compete with CBS' "CSI," NBC backed off, moving "Studio 60" to Monday night.

Reilly's departure still has some executives scratching their heads--especially considering that three months ago, NBC gave Reilly a three-year contract extension. "Why did [Zucker] renew him?" says Kanefsky. "It strikes me as odd."

Unlike Reilly's regime, the pair will have more departments reporting to them. The duo will also oversee the entertainment division's digital efforts, including, and all of the network and television studio's creative, marketing and financial groups.

Next story loading loading..