Jeff Gaspin is a change of pace

New NBC Uni TV chief brings buttoned-down efficiency

Call him the anti-Ben.

With the surprise selection of Jeff Gaspin to add oversight of NBC Universal's broadcast business to the cable division, CEO Jeff Zucker is elevating an executive who might be the antithesis of outgoing programming chief Ben Silverman.

If Silverman is the brash showman with little to show off, the buttoned-down Gaspin prefers to let the revenue generated by NBC Uni's booming cable business speak for itself.

In the second quarter recently reported by General Electric, Gaspin's cable division defied the downward trend dragging down NBC Uni by posting a 7% year-over-year increase in operating profit compared with 2008, to $595 million.

That's an executive shift that will play well on Wall Street as well as within NBC Uni, where he has earned respect for his success. Gaspin is a longtime Zucker loyalist known better for business acumen than a sharp creative eye, but he cut his teeth at VH1 and at Bravo, busting out such breakout hits as "Behind the Music" and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and also launching "Fear Factor" as head of reality at NBC.

The cable model already is shaping NBC. The distinction between broadcast and cable isn't just blurring in the minds of the U.S. audience; top cable channels like NBC Uni's USA Network deliver viewer tonnage nearly on par with the broadcast world.

As its fortunes dim, NBC has been increasingly criticized for programming itself like a cable network, given its increasing forays into multinight strips of unscripted series.

That said, don't expect Gaspin to stay steeped in creative affairs for long. He prided himself on staying out of the way of such execs as Lauren Zalaznick and Jeff Wachtel, whose flair for programming have been credited with driving series breakouts at Bravo and USA, respectively. That could be good news for NBC's Angela Bromstad and Paul Telegedy in the long term.
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