RS West ’16: Paul Telegdy outlines NBC’s unscripted vision

During a keynote talk at Realscreen West, NBC reality chief Paul Telegdy (right, with moderator Michael Schneider) explained that shifts in viewing habits have prompted the network to more aggressively invest in content and owning IP.
June 9, 2016

The network behind reality hits such as The Voice and American Ninja Warrior wants to own more shows it puts on the air.

During a keynote talk at Realscreen West in Santa Monica, NBC reality chief Paul Telegdy (pictured above, right) explained that shifts in viewing habits are ushering in changes that all broadcast nets need to react to, and have prompted the network to more aggressively invest in content and owning IP that can be shopped globally.

“Things are changing very rapidly and just being – bluntly – the world’s healthiest dinosaur is not going to be enough for my future work family,” Telegdy told delegates on Wednesday (June 8). “Content has the potential to be a very, very good bet for our company.”

During the session, he announced a restructuring of NBC Entertainment’s alternative division, which is responsible for reality hits such as The Voice, America’s Got Talent, American Ninja Warrior and Little Big Shots.

Telegdy, previously president of alternative and late night programming, has been promoted to president of the newly formed Alternative and Reality Group. A new head for late night programming is yet to be announced. Meanwhile, Meredith Ahr will head up Universal Television Alternative Studios, a newly created in-house production arm that will make programming for both NBC and other broadcast and cable nets.

The Wall

NBC’s forthcoming The Wall

In a landscape where reality break-outs are fewer and far between, the new structure is designed to make the network more adaptable to ever-changing audience metrics.

In terms of programming, viewers can expect both familiar and new ideas.

NBC’s biggest reality shows are primarily based on tried-and-true formats such as talent shows and singing competitions, but Telegdy hopes to break in other unscripted genres this summer with The Wall, from executive producer LeBron James, and the comedic travel series Better Late than Never, featuring William Shatner, Henry Winkler, George Foreman, Terry Bradshaw and Jeff Dye.

When Indiewire executive editor Michael Schneider (pictured above, left) asked how the unscripted strategies of SVOD platforms are impacting broadcast, Telegdy responded that hits such as Netflix’s Making A Murderer are more analogous to premium cable series such as HBO’s True Detective than what would air on the major broadcast nets.

“Big reality shows work really big on big networks,” he insisted.

Asked for details on the rebooted version of Celebrity Apprentice starring Arnold Schwarzenegger – which premieres in January – Telegdy said the new host’s catchphrase was a closely guarded secret, and also declined to mention its former host and current Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump by name.

When the topic shifted to late-night, an audience member asked about the online success of James Corden, and the exec noted that linear TV ratings are still more important than Facebook and YouTube views when it comes to a network’s bottom line.

“I think he’s a very competitive performer,” Telegdy said. “Has it changed the game? No. Because our primary value of measurement is the rating, not the YouTube view… It doesn’t change until you get paid more for a view than you do for a [cost per thousand], and you don’t.”

Following the session, Telegdy was inducted into the Realscreen Awards Hall of Fame as this year’s Television Trailblazer.

(Photo by Nelson Blanton)

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