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Ken Ehrlich Gave Emmys An Infusion of Youth

Wit and savvy helped TV's big night connect with the demo

Ken Ehrlich Emmy Producer
Mark Davis/Getty Images)

Ken Ehrlich isn’t as synonymous with the Emmys as he is with the Grammys, but he does have the right Emmy mindset.

“I think a degree in psychology is always the first thing for anybody in television, because there are last-minute problems with people who don’t show up, or show up late, or don’t want to go on,” says retired TV Academy chief operating officer Alan Perris.

“I think these people who do specials, who do live television events, have a lot of ice in their blood, and they can only prepare for so much. I just think that comes with a lot of experience. There’s a unique group of people that do that job well, and Ken’s one of them.”

Ehrlich has produced six Primetime Emmycasts, most recently in 2013 for CBS, his longtime Grammy partner. Not surprisingly, he frequently infuses music into the smallscreen celebration, such as 2007’s tribute to “The Sopranos” that began with a medley of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

“We’ve tried to conceptualize a little more,” Ehrlich says, “to make a show that by definition hands out an inordinate number of awards, into an entertainment show if we can, and the ratings that we’ve gotten for most of the shows that we’ve done have proven that out.”

Despite airing against “Sunday Night Football,” the 2013 Emmys drew the show’s biggest overall audience in eight years and largest in the 18-49 demo in seven years.

Perris credits Ehrlich with maintaining a connection to younger auds.

“That’s what’s amazing to me about him,” Perris says. “He has a great understanding of pop culture — he really does. You don’t have to be 25 or 30 to know what 25- to 30-year-olds want.

“He is witty. Very witty. And he’s very smart and he’s very aware.”