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Barry Diller and Ben Silverman reunite in advertising-marketing venture

The chairman of re IAC/InterActive and the just-departed NBC Entertainment co-chairman are launching a firm that would get advertisers and producers together to create 'branded' entertainment.

July 28, 2009|Joe Flint

Barry Diller, who warned last week at a media industry conference that the transition from old media to new media would be "bloody," is turning to Ben Silverman for help with triage.

Diller, chairman and chief executive of IAC/InterActiveCorp, whose holdings include 50 Internet properties, and Silverman, who is leaving his post as co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, are creating an advertising and marketing firm that Diller hopes will bridge "the gap between traditional television and the Internet."

The entity will be privately held and count IAC as an owner. Silverman said there would be other investors, including possibly NBC Universal. An NBC spokeswoman said the company would "like to continue its relationship with Ben but has no deal at this point."

The as-yet-unnamed company reunites Silverman with Diller, the veteran entertainment and Internet executive who was an investor in Silverman's old production company, Reveille. Diller's stake was bought out by NBC Universal for $8.2 million when Silverman went to the network in 2007.

The details of the Diller-Silverman venture are vague, but at its core the plan is to get advertisers and producers together for the creation of what the industry calls "integrated" or "branded" entertainment, in which a product becomes part of the show in a seamless fashion that does not leave viewers thinking they are watching a commercial.

"Right now it's a very difficult puzzle to figure out," said Peter Tortorici, global CEO of GroupM Entertainment, a unit of ad giant Group M that is involved in producing branded entertainment.

Though Silverman's track record at picking hit shows during his run at NBC was not stellar -- the network remains in fourth place in viewers and the key ages-18-to-49 demographic -- he is credited with innovation in packaging advertisers with programming. Before he joined NBC, Silverman's Reveille produced the reality series "The Restaurant" for the network, in which advertisers were also investors in the show.

Silverman, who is ending a stormy two-year run as co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, said in an interview that he wanted to build "big-time opportunities that transcend any single medium." He said, "More and more of the advertisers need help to get attention" and he wanted to "break down walls" and "connect dots."

In Silverman, Diller also gets an executive whose personality never meshed with the corporate style at General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal. His tenure at the network was filled with gossip about missed meetings, a late-night lifestyle and quarrels with agents and producers.

Much of that would have been overlooked if NBC's ratings had been better. Silverman wasn't helped, either, by the writers strike that marred the first half of his tenure at NBC.

"At end of the day, all that matters is results and obviously not where they want to be," Tortorici said.

Acknowledging that his style didn't sync at NBC, Silverman said, "Being able to create a culture is probably what I'm best suited to do as opposed to trying to change a culture, which is a lot harder than I thought."

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joe.flint@latimes.com

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