EXCLUSIVE: I’ve confirmed everything I first reported this morning. I’d foreshadowed these developments here and here. Now there are more details forthcoming as the NBC Universal mouthpieces and the rest of the media catch up. (Keep refreshing for breaking news…)
Bid goodbye to most of the top NBC Uni TV executives programming the network. Basically, the network/studio has cleaned house without admitting it. Both Teri Weinberg, the EVP of NBC Entertainment, and Katherine Pope, the Universal Studio Media President, have been fired as well as NBC Reality czar Craig Plestis (who’d been twisting in the wind for weeks). I hear their boss Ben Silverman was trying to hold the news until December 19th to see if NBC Universal could bury it during the holiday. The network/studio hoped to then spin this as part of cost-cutting rather than more evidence of failure. (But I messed up their plans. My bad.) This follows the recent plug-pulling on several of NBC’s new and holdover primetime series: Knight Rider, Lipstick Jungle, and My Own Worst Enemy, which was promoted relentlessly during NBC’s Olympics. Clearly people have to fall on their swords for those and other missteps, and it won’t be Ben Silverman or Jeff Zucker (who can’t admit he made a mistake hiring Ben as a programmer, and keeps repeating the mantra that he’s managing for margins instead of ratings in this lousy economy).
“Pope had tried to exit NBC a year ago when Zucker gave [USA Networks chief] Bonnie Hammer half the studio — the cable half — and had let everyone know she wasn’t going to sign a new contract. So once Silverman made his clumsy Page Six move, it was clear he was going to try and break up with her first so he could appear proactive, rather than the sinking ship that he is,” one insider told me. (As I’ve written before, Ben preferred to use the New York Post‘s Page Six to blame Katherine for the failures instead of himself or Teri Weinberg. That’s one of the fringe benefits of his selling his Reveille to Elisabeth Murdoch and yachting with her this summer.) I hear Weinberg will get a producing deal with NBC since she is Ben’s secret keeper.
And yes it’s true, NBC Universal will bring back Angela Bromstad, who had been president of the then-named NBC Universal Television Studio (and didn’t get along with Pope) until 2007 when Silverman was brought in. Since then, she’s been based in London as president of international production at NBC Universal International. Hollywood TV types tell me they’re stunned by this personnel news. Meanwhile, BBC’s Paul Telegdy (I broke the news five weeks ago that he was coming to NBC), starts January 5th. The other day over lunch with an entertainment exec, Silverman not only spoke to the virtual stranger about how much he hates Pope, but also waxed euphoric that he was, in the words of another source, “bringing Paul over from BBC in order to have another dude to surround himself with so that he can feel that he has ‘more friends’ around him. Almost sad.”
Now get this: a newly merged network and studio scripted division is expected to be run by Bromstad and another alternative-driven production entity within the network will be run by Telegdy. Meanwhile, Plestis, like Weinberg, gets a producing deal.
Now for all the background…
Teri Weinberg, the Reveille development exec that Silverman brought with him to NBC, deservedly had a target on her forehead from the start. At the time, her appointment was seen as a major mistake because she wasn’t ready for such a major gig in charge of comedy, drama and a lot else. (As one insider put it to me, “Terry was too inexperienced to be thrown into the deep end of running a broadcast network with no experience. Yet Ben kept delegating it all to her.”) Ironically, Katherine Pope and her backer Marc Graboff (who with Ben share the title of co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio) both had been trying to keep NBC up and running while Weinberg continually fucked up and Silverman regularly went AWOL.
Weinberg’s contract expires next summer. But as far back as August NBC looked to be building a case to get rid of her when the network took the unusual, almost unprecedented, step of cancelling an exclusive contract for a team of TV writer/producers, paying them off to the tune of millions of dollars, and letting them take back every one of their projects developed at the network – because one of the showrunners was Weinberg’s live-in boyfriend. So Weinberg’s head has been on the chopping block for months and months, as I reported.
By contrast, Pope is considered competent (among other things, she has been integral to making the Dick Wolf relationship with NBC better). But Silverman hates her with a passion and has been working overtime to lay NBC’s primetime failures at her feet. But it appears not even Graboff has been able to save this. Besides, I hear she’s fed up with Ben’s treatment of her.
Another example of Silverman’s manipulations is when I broke the news that he was the one to first circulate on the rumor mill that Plestis was a goner even though Ben was assuring him to his face that he was safe. It was only after I reported that Paul Telegdy suddenly and unexpectedly resigned from BBC Worldwide America, and that NBC was in negotiations with him, that reality set in for Plestis. Craig just had months left on his contract as NBC Entertainment’s EVP of Alternative Programming, Development and Specials, so shitcanning him isn’t expensive. The problem is that, beyond America’s Got Talent, no recent NBC reality shows have stuck.
Telegdy may or may not be able to fix NBC Entertainment’s unscripted problem. He reported to BBC Worldwide America prez Garth Ancier and had been the Beeb’s point man in Los Angeles since 2004 and overseen the U.S. adaptations of Beeb hits including Dancing With the Stars and ABC’s spinoff Dance Wars: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann, NBC’s Clash of the Choirs, and CBS’ embarrassingly short-lived Viva Laughlin. Telegdy is considered extemely intelligent and a master manipulator and adept at corporate politics.
Then again, this is NBC where mismanagement reigns.
Finally, I know what you’re thinking; why in the world does Silverman still have his job? Not just because he’s cleaned up his act since I reported his hard-partying ways were interfering with his professional performance. Not just because Zucker can’t admit he hired Ben in the wrong job as top programmer instead of as chief schmoozer. But the bottom line is that GE chairman/CEO Jeffrey Immelt likes Silverman. I wish I were kidding. I’m not.
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