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NBC late-night executive shuffle; Paul Telegdy replaces chief

September 15, 2011 |  4:56 pm

Rick Ludwin, the NBC executive who oversaw two of the biggest seismic shifts in late-night television, is stepping down.

NBC announced Thursday that it had promoted Paul Telegdy -- a former BBC America executive who nurtured NBC's biggest hit of the year, "The Voice" -- to the newly created position of president of alternative and late-night programming. 

The move continues NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt's dramatic management shake-up of the peacock network since joining the company in January.

PaulTelegdyNBC “Paul is an exemplary executive who has tremendous creative vision in the area of unscripted programming, which makes him perfect for this expanded role,” Greenblatt said in a statement. He credited Telegdy with the continued ratings success of such unscripted programs as "The Voice,"  "America’s Got Talent," "The Biggest Loser"  and "Celebrity Apprentice."

Ludwin, who has been an NBC executive for 31 years, will transition from his current position overseeing late night to becoming a consultant for NBC. 

Ludwin was running the late-night block in 1993 when NBC picked Jay Leno over David Letterman to become host of the storied "The Tonight Show" when Johnny Carson retired. It was a monumental shift that divided the network's executives because many backed Letterman (who defected to CBS).

Ultimately, the move paid off.

Two of the more recent late-night switches have proved more treacherous. Conan O'Brien's tenure succeeding Leno as host of "The Tonight Show" lasted just seven months. Leno moved to an ill-fated 10 p.m. variety show that also bombed, and NBC pulled him back to late night to lift the sagging ratings there, prompting O'Brien to leave the network. Leno's contract with NBC extends another two years.

There has been one sunny spot. NBC's late-night host Jimmy Fallon has scored high marks with critics and viewers.

"I couldn't have asked for or imagined a more rewarding job than the one I've had at NBC,” Ludwin said in the NBC statement. “To have been a part of TV history with ‘Seinfeld,’ our late-night franchises, ‘Saturday Night Live’ and with all our producers, writers and talent has been unbelievable. Since I was a kid it was a dream of mine to work at NBC. I got to do it and continue to be grateful."

Before joining NBC, Telegdy, 40, was executive vice president of sales, content and production for BBC Worldwide America. While working at BBC Productions in Los Angeles, he helped develop "Dancing with the Stars," which has become one of television's biggest hits.

He graduated with honors from the University of London with a degree in Korean and Japanese.

-- Meg James

Photo of Paul Telegdy / Credit:  NBC

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