Updated; Barry Diller just solved Jeff Zucker’s Ben Silverman problem. In an unexpected turn of events announced this morning, Silverman will join Diller at IAC (NSDQ: IACI) to start an as-yet-unnamed multi-platform production company; he plans to stay at NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) through the launch of the fall season. The move comes a little more than two years after Silverman left his own ground-breaking production company Reveille to become co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios. Silverman has not matched the success he had on his own at NBC and both his future and the programming future of the network have been the source of increasing speculation. [The paidContent Q&A with Silverman.]
According to the companies, NBCU will continue to work with Silverman through platform partnerships and a potential investment” in the new company. Silverman tells me the company is talking to other possible investors as well. NBCU, which announced the promotion of Jeff Gaspin to chairman, NBC Universal Television Entertainment, at the same time, described it as Silverman returning to his “entrepreneurial roots.” (That’s often used as slang for “things just didn’t work out.”) Of course, another way to look at this all is that Diller solved Silverman’s “where to go” problem. Diller backed Silverman in Reveille not just once, but twice.
I was urged not to see this as Diller getting back into TV — at least, not the way he once was. The idea behind this new company is it won’t be based on deficit financing the way most network TV is done (although never say never). Translated: it’s custom production rather than something a network bets people will like and advertisers will pay for. The plan is to work with advertisers from the beginning and it sounds to me like it’s doubtful anything major will get a green light unless they believe the costs will be covered from the beginning.
The description from the announcement: the new company will “capitalize on the ever-evolving world of multimedia production and distribution, leveraging unique marketing expertise … [and] unite producers, creators, advertisers and distributors under one roof and produce all forms of content for distribution across a variety of platforms around the world.”
— Notional: This comes just a couple of days after news that IAC is setting up a new video production unit called Notional headed by Ricky Van Veen, the co-founder of College Humor. Unlike CH, Notional’s focus will be unscripted shows that will encompass a broader range of programming genres. The ultimate goal is to take the cost-effective production capabilities associated with the web and apply that to creating hit shows that work on TV as well. Notional has lined up TV exec Dave Noll to take on the role of president of television. Noll, a two-time Emmy winner, was previously president of the NYC video production firm CityLights.