NBC’s head of alternative Paul Telegdy and his top lieutenant Meredith Ahr have extended their contracts. They have gotten new titles — Telegdy has been named President, Alternative and Reality Group, NBC Entertainment; Ahr — President of Universal Television Alternative Studio — as the two will focus on the building a big-scale studio to supply unscripted shows to NBC as well as other broadcast and cable networks.
Telegdy will continue to report to Robert Greenblatt, Chairman, NBC Entertainment. Ahr continues to report to Telegdy.
There had been an unscripted operation under the Universal TV umbrella but the new plan is to have a major standalone entity backed by a big financial investment. The initiative is part of the networks’ push to own their content — both scripted and unscripted — and become more global. (NBC does not own its biggest reality hits, The Voice, America’s Got Talent and Little Big Shots.) Universal Television Alternative Studios will exist as the parallel to the scripted studio — Universal Television — headed by newly named President Pearlena Igbokwe. She reports to Jennifer Salke, President, NBC Entertainment.
As he focuses on building the new large-scale unscripted studio operation while also continuing to oversee alternative programming for NBC, Telegdy will no longer have day-to-day oversight of late-night, something that he had gradually pulled away from after he shepherded NBC’s major transitions in the area over the last couple of years. NBC’s late-night is being overseen by EVP George Cheeks.
“Paul is in a class by himself in the area of alternative programming, which is one of the biggest strengths of NBC and a key reason why we have returned to a leadership position among networks,” said Greenblatt. “He has a vision of the future and his finger is on the pulse of what is exciting in this space, and it was a priority of mine to continue to tap him as a major resource for this company. Part of the strategy was setting up a studio, to be run by Meredith, that will provide us with the biggest reality hits of the future, whether on NBC or other programming services and to territories around the world. Paul comes to us with a global understanding of this business and I’m pleased that he will continue to make this company his home after such a winning track record that began so dramatically with The Voice.”
Reporting to Ahr at the studio will be SVP Enrique Guillen, George Sealey and Fernando Hernandez, who leads the development team and helps oversee a bold roster of producers and talent deals.
Series that have done well under both Telegdy and Ahr’s purview include The Voice, the #1 alternative series in the 18-49 demo for the last four seasons; America’s Got Talent, the #1 summer series that just began its 11th season; American Ninja Warrior, which is coming off its best season ever; and Little Big Shots, which was the season’s #1 new broadcast series in total viewers. Other successful alternative series of the recent past include Hollywood Game Night and Running Wild with Bear Grylls.
In addition, Teledgy’s oversight includes NBC’s many annual specials, including the Golden Globe Awards, The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, The Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular and the Red Nose Day Special. Telegdy is also overseeing the upcoming relaunch of The New Celebrity Apprentice, hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Telegdy has been in his current post since 2011 after he was promoted from EVP, Alternative Programming, NBC and Universal Television. Before joining NBC he worked at BBC Worldwide America.
Ahr has been integral in developing and maintaining the two-time Emmy Award winner The Voice. In addition, she, along with Simon Cowell, developed the first season of America’s Got Talent, one of the world’s most successful formats. Ahr has also been behind the creation of many other alternative series, including The Celebrity Apprentice, Last Comic Standing and the Emmy-winning docuseries Who Do You Think You Are?
For the last seven years, Ahr has managed the entire team of alternative current and development executives for the network. Her career at NBC began in 2001 when became a page in New York, with roles ranging from seating audiences at Saturday Night Live to working in the office of Bob Wright, then Vice Chairman and Executive Officer, GE, and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, NBC Universal. Ahr moved to Los Angeles in 2004.
New Universal Television alternative series to debut over the next several months include The Wall, from executive producer LeBron James and host Chris Hardwick, and Better Late Than Never, featuring William Shatner, Henry Winkler, Terry Bradshaw, George Foreman and Jeff Dye.