Tepid Tempest

'The Storm' Miniseries Miss Typifies Tenure of NBC's Departing Ben Silverman

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- When he came to NBC in 2007 with a cultural and commercial fluency in prime-time programming, Ben Silverman, who announced his impending departure today, hoped to be a hit show rainmaker.

'The Storm'
'The Storm' Credit: NBC
Instead, NBC's schedule often has had the results of "The Storm," last night's installment of "Survival Sundays" that has taken on an unintended meaning considering how much the miniseries -- and the network -- has struggled.

Part one delivered a 1.1/3 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, 8% below the combined ratings for "Meteor" earlier this month. While "The Storm" tied a repeat of CBS's "Without a Trace" in the 10 p.m. hour, it was beat by a rerun of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (1.5/4) at 9 p.m. (All based on Nielsen fast affiliate ratings, with final live-plus-same-day data released Tuesday.)

Of course, one show does not a season -- or a legacy -- make. But Ben Silverman's biggest impact on NBC may have pre- and post-dated his tepid tenure. His earlier stint running Reveille, his production company, brought his future employer his hit remake of "The Office" and began the big gains for "The Biggest Loser." And his September departure date will coincide with this fall's profound prime-time change of moving Jay Leno from late night to prime time.

In his Ad Age interview, Mr. Silverman is quoted as calling his new, unnamed venture with Barry Diller's Interactive Group "Reveille meets BBDO." This may make sense, given the need to marry marketing and content in today's TiVo'd fragmented, fractured media landscape.

Rash chart July 26, 2009Click for PDF
See how all the shows did in the ratings.

But advertiser integration will only work if it's coupled with compelling content that can create the next generation of hits. While NBC under his tenure had some small successes, it lacked a big breakthrough show that can bring a network from fourth to first.

Of course, this is a struggle all of broadcast battles. Last night, for instance, it only took a 1.3/4 nightly average to finish first (ABC and CBS tied), while Fox fell to fourth and the CW fifth with a 0.9/3 and 0.2/1, respectively.

As for NBC, despite original programming running against reruns on rival networks, neither "The Storm" nor "Dateline" (1.2/4) or "Merlin" (1.1/3) had the magic the former first-place network used to have, as it finished third with an overall 1.1/4.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: No long-term commitment needed: Tonight's the season finale of ABC's "The Bachelorette."
Tuesday: And then after watching the easy escapism of "The Bachelorette," it's back to the real (natural) world with PBS's "Nova ScienceNow."

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Week two ratings for "Bachelorette" program partner "Dating in the Dark," which started strong last week.

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NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)

John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.

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