NBC Reality Chief on Jay Leno Layoffs, Sharon Osbourne's Media War and 'American Idol's' Woes (Q&A)
NBC Orders Family Trivia Series 'Wall of Fame' (Exclusive)
This story first appeared in the Aug. 23-Sept. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Step into Paul Telegdy's corner office on the NBC lot in Burbank, and you're quickly reminded of the reality chief's British heritage. There are rain boots, a framed James Bond poster (Roger Moore's iteration) and a collection of books about U.S. TV.
"People frequently give me books about American television history because they suspect -- rightly -- that this is a massive gap in my knowledge," quips Telegdy, one of a few holdovers from the Ben Silverman era at NBC.
These days, the engaged father of two young girls, who took on oversight of the network's late-night division in late 2011, continues to get more rope from his Comcast bosses. His Emmy-nominated series The Voice, after all, kept the network afloat this past season, averaging a 6.2 rating among the coveted 18-to-49 demographic.
Telegdy, 41, who previously worked at BBC Worldwide America and developed ABC rival Dancing With the Stars, sat down Aug. 17 to discuss recent layoffs at The Tonight Show, Sharon Osbourne's claim that she's quitting America's Got Talent (still summer's No. 1 reality show, but down 11 percent despite the addition of Howard Stern) and the controversy surrounding his newest entry, Stars Earn Stripes.
The Hollywood Reporter: About 20 people are being laid off and Jay Leno opted to take a pay cut at The Tonight Show. Why?
Paul Telegdy: These are not easy decisions, and we don't take them lightly. The Tonight Show's costs increased when the show moved to primetime and were never changed to the original late-night budget when the show moved back to 11:30 p.m.
THR: Reality ratings have been down across the board this summer. What gives?
Telegdy: It's one thing to provide the excuse that there's a crowded market for singing shows. There is, so you better distinguish yourself in some way and not just rush rubbish on air. But to blame the ratings results on a maturation of the reality market is a white flag. It's the cop-show argument: "Oh my gosh, there are so many cop shows. Cop shows don't work." Then what comes along? One that blows you away. Why? Because it was just better than the others.
THR: So it's a quality issue?
Telegdy: Someone handed me a list of the shows that had launched in broadcast this summer, and is it any wonder these shows didn't rate? Have a look at them, guys! Don't blame the genre; the genre is still that which is garnering probably fully 30 to 40 percent of primetime audiences across all network television.
THR: What's the next genre?
Telegdy: I think anything done right with the right talent can distinguish itself, whether it's a dating show or a cooking show. Honestly, if there's one thing I'm really jealous of, it's [Fox's] Gordon Ramsay because if I could get away with merchandising one person with the same show three times, I'd be f--ing psyched.
THR: Why doesn't broadcast do the dirty-job shows that cable does so well?
Telegdy: I just don't think there are prizes in broadcast for re-expressing what cable does so well, and the business model is different. We have one chance to get a rating. I love shows like Swamp People, but I can dip in and out because they have a kind of disposability to them, which works on cable. On broadcast, it's about, "How do we reward you for being here?" There need to be outcomes and stakes in every episode.