It’s a reunion for Barry and Ben.
Ben Silverman’s decision to set up shop with a production venture at Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorp is an echo of the move Silverman made 10 years ago, when he exited WMA to set up his Reveille shingle with backing from Diller’s USA Networks.
This time around, however, Silverman is promising a new entity that, compared to Reveille, is “probably a 10- to 15-fold size company in terms of what we’ll build and launch.”
Details about the company were sparse Monday, but the venture will be co-owned by IAC and Silverman, with IAC holding the majority interest. It’s possible other investors may come onboard, which means the company’s earnings will not be consolidated with IAC’s financial reporting. Among the potential investors is NBC Universal, IAC said in announcing the as-yet-unnamed company.
An NBC U insider said the company is waiting to see a business prospectus on the Diller/Silverman entity before deciding how to proceed. It’s still unclear whether NBC U will take a stake or sign a production pact with the new company.
Silverman’s focus is to produce content for TV and digital platforms in collaboration with advertising partners at the earliest development stage. As Silverman did at Reveille, the vision is to develop models for financing production beyond the traditional deficit-financing template for TV series.
“The advertising piece is something I’ve been focusing on and growing,” Silverman told Daily Variety. “There’s a need for advertisers to grab the attention of consumers through disruption, and not just the traditional mechanisms they’ve used before.”
Silverman pointed to his recent experience working with Microsoft on the launch of its new Bing search engine. The exec worked with the computer giant’s ad agency in creating a campaign that included elements both inside and outside NBC.
The exec also pointed to the relationship between Lorne Michaels and Pepsi, which led to the Super Bowl “Pepsuber” spots.
Silverman said he plans to bring several seasoned advertising and marketing execs on board. He’ll also continue to focus on international platforms and partners, he said.
And, the exec said he plans to apply the digital knowledge he gained in his tenure at NBC, working on deals with Hulu, iTunes and other sites.
For Diller, the effort reps a major move back into TV production. IAC recently launched Notional, a “video content” spinoff of its comedy site CollegeHumor.com, which will produce projects for TV and the Web.
After various spinoffs in recent years, IAC has pared itself down into an Internet-centric business with more than 50 sites including Ask.com, Citysearch, Evite and Match.com.
Meanwhile, among Silverman’s potential collaborators at the new company is Seacrest himself, a notion Silverman didn’t dismiss.
“Brands want to clearly work with him,” Silverman said. “That’s the example of the kind of opportunities and partnerships that are out there. There are a number of others you could speculate about.”
After his stint in the corporate NBC culture, Silverman admitted that moving back to the indie world was “liberating.”
“No deal will be too big or too small,” he said, adding that he was looking forward to “be able to build businesses and relationships and not just meet quarterly results.. I respect NBC Universal and think it was like playing on the New York Yankees. I didn’t want to go play for the Marlins.”
(Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.)