NBC loses its way (again)

Thursday, May 31, 2007

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Just a few months ago in the Tuned In column, I praised NBC for its patience and wisdom in renewing the contract of Entertainment president Kevin Reilly. I take it all back.

Even before Memorial Day weekend, Hollywood trades began reporting that top NBC executive Jeff "Peter Pan Principle" Zucker was sloppily hatching a plan to bring in Reveille executive Ben Silverman in to operate in a position over Reilly. In Hollywood, that's tantamount to a no-confidence vote, and Reilly, who's been second-guessed since day one on the job three years ago, opted to quit.

Reilly, who joined NBC from FX, was saddled with the mess Zucker made as Entertainment president. Zucker presided over NBC's ratings freefall. When he arrived, the network was standing tall, by the time he was promoted out of the Entertainment president post, NBC's downward ratings trajectory had begun.

Ratings continued to tumble this season even as NBC launched a hit in "Heroes" and several critical smashes. Reilly set the network on a road to recovery, using quality shows as a foundation to build upon. Maybe it wouldn't have worked, but given what Reilly had to work with when he got to NBC, he deserved more time to execute his strategy.

Silverman, who will be co-chairman of NBC's network and studio with current NBC West Coast exec Marc Graboff, has had success ("The Office," "Ugly Betty") and he may be able to continue the course set by Reilly, but Reilly did not get what he deserved. He yet again took the fall for Zucker's failures. It's not the way things should be, but it's too often how the business world (not just Hollywood) works.



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