No TV executive has been more heavily scrutinized this year than Ben Silverman, the charismatic co-chairman of NBC Entertainment. Though his reputation as a hitmaker was solid when he joined NBC in May 2007 (his Reveille production company was responsible for The Office, Ugly Betty, and The Biggest Loser), the 38-year-old former agent had no experience programming a network. And it’s shown. His strategy has centered on mindless fare like reboots of American Gladiators and Knight Rider, ratings are down, and his off-air eccentricities and reputation as a party boy have been catnip for bloggers.
But a funny thing happened while Silverman was revving up KITT — NBC started to make money, something of no small consequence when your company is owned by GE. The product-placement-loving exec inserted Ford cars into Knight and GM wheels into My Own Worst Enemy. He also shrewdly limited NBC’s financial risk on new shows like Crusoe by signing international co-production deals.
So why isn’t he on EW’s smart list? Because most industry sources think he’s miscast — that he’s a brilliant producer who has no business running a network. NBC is floundering in fourth place, and Enemy has already been canceled (Kath & Kim and Knight are struggling, but both received full-season pickups). Still, it seems Silverman’s spot at NBC is safe for now. Rumors swirled last month that BBC Worldwide America’s Paul Telegdy was in line to replace him, but a source familiar with the talks says Telegdy is only being considered for a reality position. Silverman’s two-year deal expires next summer, and an NBC insider says the network is currently in negotiations to keep him on board.