Ben Silverman—dubbed by some "the Russell Brand of TV execs" as much for his ids-gone-wild approach to the job as for his untamed nest of rock-star hair and penchant for ultra-skinny jeans—has found himself in recent months the source of much industry deathwatch chatter. By now we're well aware of the criticisms—long absences from the development fold, turning a blind eye to VP-on-showrunner affairs, signing his name and likeness over to a line of Graffix bongs, etc. None of this, however, seems to be of much concern to Ben, who has devised an ingenious way to profit off the one thing NBC has over the other guys: a lack of viewers. He explained the concept to Variety:
"I was hired to come in and help transform our model," Silverman says. "Day to day I'm maybe 80% revenue-oriented and business-oriented. I'm working with ad sales. Connecting with broadcast partners and connecting with advertiser clients globally. ... The reality is we've got to collectively be thinking about how we put shows together and get them financed, and people are resisting that."
At NBC, Silverman has introduced international co-productions to the mix, starting with the upcoming "Crusoe." Because it's shot overseas, "Crusoe" costs less than half of an average hourlong drama. And with U.K. producer Power funding more than 75% of the show, it's a virtually risk-free investment for NBC. "Instead of a 3 rating, we can survive with a 1.2 rating," Silverman says.
It's unclear if Silverman will even stick around long enough to see if his model will yield the kinds of turkey-resistant results he envisions, and help NBC turn a profit despite future Nielsen-stillborn brainstorms like Soap Star Illusionists and Supertrain 3000. Variety reports that "Zucker has already begun conversations with Silverman...about his future at the network." You know—the kinds of "conversations" in which Zucker pulls out a giant binder of golden parachute fabric swatches, and stands over Silverman's shoulder as he thumbs through its glistening pages.