NBC Reality Chief Touts 'Voice' Longevity, Defends State of the Genre

"It's gotten harder, and yes the failure rate has increased, but in that respect, we're probably just keeping company with the world of scripted"
Trae Patton/NBC; Mark Seliger/NBC
'The Voice'

NBC's victory lap this fall has been a relatively quiet one. After kicking off the previous two years with ratings success among the sought-after audience of adults 18-49, wins for the first two weeks of the 2014-15 season have been greeted as a bit of a given.

But Paul Telegdy, president of alternative programming and late night at the network, seems no less excited. The Voice, NBC's non-NFL flagship, remains a strong performer despite a significant opposition in its third autumn since doubling up on its cycle order. "The main story this fall is that CBS got football. What that did was displace the No. 1 show on TV onto a new night, opposite The Voice," he tells The Hollywood Reporter of The Big Bang Theory's Monday move. "In the face of competition in individual time periods, which has massively increased, it's down just a little is really what I would say about it." 

The Voice, which did premiere down 24 percent from the previous fall, has notched unexpected ratings feats elsewhere — like improving its showing in its Tuesday episode, holding steady in its second week and showing bigger-than-usual growth in DVR.

All unscripted series seem to be benefiting more from DVR these days. The genre has long been the least time-shifted (outside of sports), trailing far behind scripted comedies and dramas. "What increased DVR means to me is that people have other priorities but can't miss this show," adds Telegdy, noting that accounting for those extra viewers is still a work in progress. "We're trying to be good partners with our advertisers and our creative stakeholders in just trying to work this new world order."

A lot has been written about the current state of reality TV — THR is no exception — and the lack of new hits on both broadcast (since The Voice) and cable (since Duck Dynasty) has been a hot topic. Recent big swings in ABC's Rising Star and Fox's Utopia, both of which launched to middling ratings, have done nothing to help reality TV's current perception issue.

"I don't think reality TV is any less successful," says Telegdy, adding that a five-year gap between breakout successes is just the norm now that the genre's boom days of the early aughts are long over. "It's gotten harder, and yes the failure rate has increased, but in that respect, we're probably just keeping company with the world of scripted."

Fatigue is also a natural concern for the last dominant singing competition. And The Voice now puts out 86 hours of originals every calendar year. The only other live competition airing two cycles in a season is Dancing With the Stars. Even though the latter retained its viewership crown (by a generous margin) long after losing its adults 18-49 edge to The Voice, it's now often outviewed as well. (The pair were neck and neck this week, hovering around 12.5 million viewers on Monday.)

Telegdy says he looks forward to the time when they can pull back but also recognizes that it's not in the cards right now. "In trying to be great custodians of a piece of intellectual property, it's an active discussion — but it's an active discussion driven by, 'Well, what else have you got?' " he says. "But The Voice's self-contained ecology within the reality one, I think is a healthy one."

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