Fifth Estater

The Face Behind NBC's 'Voice'

Network's reality chief goes above and beyond to mold a much-needed hit 12/12/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Paul Telegdy

Title:

President, NBC alternative and late-night programming

Education:

U. of London, B.A. in Korean and Japanese languages, 1993

Employment Highlights:

BBC London, commercial director, drama, entertainment, drama and children’s, 2002-2004

BBC Worldwide America: VP, programming and coproductions, 2004-2005

Executive VP, sales, content and production, 2007-08

NBC and UMS, Executive VP, alternative programming and specials, 2008-11

Current title since September

Personal:

Born March 27, 1971; fiancée Lauren Henderson; children Grace, 8; Lily, 10

NBC got itself a smash hit when The Voice premiered last
April. That’s why it’s a lot easier for the man who was instrumental
in bringing the show to the network to smile
when he recalls the uncertainty that first surrounded it. There was plenty of skepticism during the
build-up to the premiere, remembers Paul
Telegdy, NBC's head of alternative and latenight
programming. Colleagues told him
The Voice had “expensive flop” written all
over it. In one conversation with a close
friend, he was told: "Seriously, a singing
show…you better be sure about this."

It was, therefore, good for Telegdy
(and the rest of NBC) that the network’s
singing-competition series The Voice debuted
to a 5.1 rating in the adults 18-
49 demo last April. “It was one of those
things that turned around and whacked
the industry on the head,” says Telegdy,
who recalls that during the build-up to
the premiere, industry friends told him
The Voice had “expensive flop” written all
over it. “It was a very good day at NBC.”

Telegdy got his start in the television
industry working for international distribution
companies, after first studying
Japanese and Korean languages at the
University of London. Once he realized
the TV business was for him, there was
only one place he wanted to go: the BBC.
“You can’t work in Britain and not be impacted
by the BBC,” he says.

He made it there in 1999, and during
his tenure, the network was cultivating
relationships with American production
companies. Telegdy convinced the higherups
that he could do his job better if he relocated
to the U.S. During that time, he developed
the megahit Dancing With the Stars,
and after working with NBC on Grease:
You’re the One That I Want
, the network
hired him to run its flailing reality division.

It was a good move: Without Telegdy,
that “good day” The Voice created may
never have come. When John De Mol was
interested in bringing The Voice of Holland to the States, he initially was wary of
working with network executives, because
of issues he had earlier with Deal
or No Deal
(frequency of broadcast) and
Big Brother (CBS wanted to change the
format). “John was extremely protective,”
recalls Telegdy, “and has been, more than
once, maybe twice, shy about being in
business with U.S. networks.”

Hearing that De Mol believed in the
personal relationship side of TV, Telegdy
hopped a plane to Holland to try and
convince him he would do The Voice
right. He met with De Mol as he was
working on one of The Voice of Holland’s
shows. After seeing the series in person,
Telegdy knew he could make it work, and
told De Mol that he would do everything
in his power to not only make it successful
but keep it something De Mol would be
proud of. “I said, ‘The only guarantee I can
give you is that I will dedicate every waking
hour to its success,'" Teledgy recalls.

After that pitch, De Mol told Telegdy
that if he could deliver on 10% of what
he’d promised, the U.S. version would
be in good shape—and in good hands.
The morning after the series premiered in
America, Telegdy called an emotional De
Mol to give him the news. “I couldn’t see
whether there were tears in his eyes, but
it sounded like there were,” says Telegdy.
“I was incredibly proud of that moment.”

The singing-competition genre was
something Telegdy had long been trying to
nail down. He and Mark Burnett—an executive
producer of The Voice—had already
been brainstorming ideas. “Mark and I had
unfinished business,” Telegdy says.

Telegdy’s success in the unscripted department
eventually also landed him additional
oversight of NBC’s late-night programming
this past September, replacing
veteran Rick Ludwin, who stepped down.

“Paul is an exemplary executive who
has tremendous creative vision in the
area of unscripted programming, which
makes him perfect for this expanded
role,” NBC Entertainment chairman Bob
Greenblatt said at the time.

Telegdy’s creative vision, passion and
personal touch have brought him where
he is now. “I have the constitution of an
ox—literally,” he says. “I’ve very rarely
met anybody who can meet my sheer
energy and enthusiasm.”

E-mail comments to
tim.baysinger@gmail.com and follow
him on Twitter: @tim_bays

Paul Telegdy

Title:

President, NBC alternative and late-night programming

Education:

U. of London, B.A. in Korean and Japanese languages, 1993

Employment Highlights:

BBC London, commercial director, drama, entertainment, drama and children’s, 2002-2004

BBC Worldwide America: VP, programming and coproductions, 2004-2005

Executive VP, sales, content and production, 2007-08

NBC and UMS, Executive VP, alternative programming and specials, 2008-11

Current title since September

Personal:

Born March 27, 1971; fiancée Lauren Henderson; children Grace, 8; Lily, 10

September
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