Paul L. Klein, the former programming head of NBC known for his “least objectionable program” theory of television viewership and who also pioneered the concepts of pay and pay-per-view television, died July 5 in Manhattan. Klein, who resided in Catskill, N.Y., was 69.
As an audience researcher for the television and advertising industries, Klein was also an early advocate of the idea that demographic ratings were a more important index of a show’s success to advertisers than the total number of viewers.
Klein joined NBC in 1961 as vice president of audience measurement. He left NBC in 1970 to form Computer Television Inc., for which he developed the concepts of present-day “pay” television (e.g. where the subscriber pays an additional monthly fee for cable service) and “hotelvision” or “pay-per-view” television, including the satellite delivery of private television signals.
In 1975, Time Inc acquired Klein’s interest and later sold the company to Spectradyne Inc. Klein then served as a consultant to various new television ventures. In 1976, Klein returned to NBC as executive vice president of programming.
In 1979 Klein left NBC to establish PKO Television, a production and media management company that, for its first three years, exclusively provided programming to NBC.
From 1982 to 1984, Klein served as president of “The Playboy Channel” to oversee its launch as the first adult programming channel on pay television.
Klein is survived by his wife, Janet; his daughter, Molly; his son, Adam; and one grandchild.