Blog Post

Interview: Ben Silverman Trades NBC for IAC: ‘Building A Dream Team’

Add Ben Silverman to the growing list of entertainment execs who think they can change the programming world by knocking down the barriers between programming, advertising and marketing. Silverman, the outgoing co-chairman of NBC (NYSE: GE) Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, spoke with paidContent soon after he shook up what should have been a quiet July Monday by announcing a move to IAC (NSDQ: IACI) to start a new-look production company for former backer Barry Diller. He told me he let NBC Universal know a couple of months ago that he wanted to stay through the launch of what he sees as his first development slate for the network, including Jay Leno in prime time, then start a company that mixes his experience as a talent agent at William Morris, an entrepreneurial producer at Reveille and a Big Co. media exec.

Silverman is aiming for a quick start and a leadership role in the crowded space. He promises to put a “dream team” in place but talks about running a lean operation. When he joined NBC two years ago, he was riding a wave of success at Reveille, the production company he founded in 2002. This time around, he has to prove he can ride the waves again. We spoke about his connection with Barry Diller, the probability he’ll bring in Ryan Seacrest, his plans to set up a new digital distribution network, and whether the new company with no name will go shopping. Edited excerpts follow.

Staci D. Kramer: How did Barry get involved in this?
Ben Silverman: I approached Barry and laid out for him my vision for the company at a breakfast and he really responded to it. And I met with his senior executives to go through it in great detail and we quickly worked out a relationship. Barry and I have been in business before. He was my original backer and partner in Reveille. We both did very well in that relationship and actually renewed that relationship another time. He kind of recapitalized it. We had a shorthand and we’re familiar with each other.

Can you help me understand how this is going to work financially? Sure, IAC still has almost $2 billion left but this has been described as not a deficit-funding project. How much does it take to start things off?
We’re not funding production but we are funding the overhead and the infrastructure of the company. We’ll also be talking to some other investors, including NBC, who’s going to be a potential partner as well as we continue a relationship with them that I’ve also had for a long time.

We will be scaling this quickly. Barry’s partnership and backing initially is driving the building of the business and then we’ll be bringing in other partners as well.