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July 27, 2009

Ben Silverman exiting NBC Universal

By Georg Szalai and Nellie Andreeva

Ben Silverman is out as co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, both part of NBC Universal.

Jeff Gaspin has been named chairman, NBC Universal Television Entertainment, effective immediately.

Silverman Meanwhile, Barry Diller's Internet juggernaut IAC announced Monday morning a deal with Silverman to form a new company that will be run by Silverman and "unite producers, creators, advertisers and distributors under one roof."

The venture will produce content for the Internet, TV and other platforms and look for additional investors. NBC Universal will continue to have a relationship with Silverman via the new venture through "platform partnerships" and a potential investment in the enterprise, said IAC.

The promotion of Gaspin expands his role to now include oversight of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios in addition to his management responsibility for the company’s entertainment cable networks, including USA, SyFy and Bravo, among others. The cable channels have been the entertainment arm’s key growth assets.

“This new structure will consolidate all of the company's television entertainment assets, both broadcast and cable, English and Spanish, under one roof and will better allow the company to leverage its content across all of those properties,” NBC Universal said.

Silverman will remain in his current role for several weeks to assist in the launch of NBC's fall schedule. Marc Graboff, who has also been co-chairman, will continue now as chairman, NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, reporting to Gaspin.

“Jeff Gaspin is an extraordinary media professional who has had an incredible record of success in his 25 years in the business,” said NBC Uni president and CEO Jeff Zucker. “He's a strong creative executive who also has the business acumen necessary to succeed in today's media environment. This new structure helps us align all of our television entertainment assets under one veteran executive at a time when continued innovation is essential.”

IAC said its new venture with Silverman will be "the industry’s first global platform that connects advertisers, distributors and content creators early on in the development process, enabling advertisers to be a partner in campaigns and content creation."

IAC chairman and CEO Diller said in a statement he hopes to tear down the silos of the entertainment industry.
“This new venture will take full advantage of all areas of Ben Silverman’s extensive media expertise – as an agent, producer and advertising innovator – to create a truly integrated and truly interactive new media production entity, a next generation enterprise that bridges the gap between traditional television and the internet," he said.

Added Silverman: "Media is being consumed across an increasing number of platforms, including TV, the Internet, mobile and DVR. The next generation of media will be defined by the players who can capitalize on those trends and deliver integrated, compelling content across all platforms."

IAC will provide initial capital to the venture, but it didn't say how much. The parties said they plan to ultimately structure the venture "in a way that its results will not be consolidated with the financial results of IAC, whether through the participation of new investors or otherwise."

"Ben Silverman has many exciting things he wants to accomplish and we applaud him as he sets off on his new endeavors," said Zucker. "Ben brought us tremendous new thinking in this changing media age, and we're grateful for that. Now, we look forward to working with him in his new venture."


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