Memorial Day Meltdown at NBC

Reilly's future is in doubt-- again

The fate of NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly is once again up in the air—just months after the exec inked a new deal with the network.

Despite one Internet report, reality mogul Ben Silverman is not expected to directly replace Reilly, according to two people familiar situation. Nonetheless, Silverman may be key to what’s going on at the company right now.

NBC U is in discussions with Silverman about buying his successful Reveille shingle, which produces skeins such as “The Office,” “Ugly Betty” and “The Biggest Loser.” Peacock already has a stake in Reveille, but this deal could make it the outright owner. It might have competition: Barry Diller and Endemol USA have also been mentioned as potential bidders.

As part of any deal to take over Reveille, NBC U supremo Jeff Zucker is believed to be talking to Silverman about taking an exec role within the company, most likely heading up the NBC U Television Studio arm. It’s also possible Silverman could take on a larger role, perhaps overseeing both the network and the studio.

Reilly, who hasn’t been part of these talks, has to be frustrated by having to work with an ax constantly hovering over his head. A resolution of his status is expected early next week, people familiar with the situation said. Odds as of Friday afternoon were running in favor of Reilly departing.

The new Silverman scenario completely contradicts what had been the conventional wisdom inside NBC about the fate of the studio. It had been understood for months that the Peacock was planning to fold the studio into its network operations, with studio chief Angela Bromstad taking on another role inside NBC U.

Under this plan, Katherine Pope—now Reilly’s head of development– would be in charge of day-to-day activities developing on the studio side, with Reilly focused on the network. Pope has made it clear that she wanted to get out of her network gig and return to working at the studio.

But on Thursday, NBC insiders were told that the studio-network merge wouldn’t be happening. That news no doubt hit Pope particularly hard, since most people inside the Peacock’s Burbank HQ had assumed she’d be moving up (and over) to the studio.

While Pope hasn’t turned in her resignation, it’s believed that she’s made her unhappiness clear to Zucker and discussed the possibility of leaving.

The two execs have always had a strong relationship, with Zucker being very supportive of Pope’s career, so it seems likely that Zucker will try to find a way to hang on to Pope. Whether he can do so given how things have unfolded over the past few days remains to be seen.

All of the activity and uncertainty on the studio side, meanwhile has caused the rumors about Reilly’s future to resurface.

It wouldn’t make sense for Silverman to simply take Reilly’s gig, in part because he’d have to take a huge financial hit.

But even if Silverman cashed out and sold Reveille to NBC U, the producer would no doubt feel confined by a gig as limited as that of president of entertainment (even though one of his idols was Brandon Tartikoff). Silverman’s strengths tend to be in reinventing business models and striking deals, though he’s obviously had success in producing comedies, dramas and reality shows.

More likely would be a situation where Silverman oversees either the studio, or the studio and the network—not unlike the gig once held by Don Ohlmeyer during the 1990s. That’s essentially the gig currently held by NBC U west coast chief Marc Graboff (though Graboff has even more responsibilities).

Reilly and Silverman are good friends, so it’s also not completely out of the question that the two men could end up working together as execs. That’s still considered a longshot, however.

Internal chaos at NBC comes as the net’s sales force is trying to convince Madison Ave. that the Peacock has turned the corner and is confident in its new fall shows. As bad as the timing might be, it makes sense for Zucker to clarify things quickly, before the net begins developing shows for 2008-09.

All parties involved declined comment.

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