NBC has settled on a pair of executives — George Cheeks and Paul Telegdy — for new roles as co-chairmen of NBC Entertainment now that Bob Greenblatt has decided to step down after eight years at the helm.
Cheeks is business strategist and seasoned dealmaker who at present splits his duties between NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and the NBC broadcast network. Telegdy is NBC’s head of unscripted programming who boasts a strong track record of fielding hit shows including “The Voice,” “America’s Got Talent,” “American Ninja Warrior,” “World of Dance” and “Ellen’s Game of Games.”
Cheeks and Telegdy will jointly oversee the entertainment operations of the NBC network and the Universal Television studio operations. The studio division now includes Universal Television Alternative Studio, which opened its doors in 2016 under Telegdy’s guidance to focus on unscripted programming.
“We are fortunate to have two extremely talented, capable and complementary executives inside our organization who are ready to step up and help guide us into the future,” said NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke in a memo to staffers sent Monday morning. “Having worked closely with George and Paul for years, I’m very confident that their creative instincts, talent relationships and business skills make them the perfect partners for the job. Both executives are beloved by their teams and extremely well-respected by the entire industry.”
Greenblatt will remain on board as a consultant to NBC and he will continue to be involved in the development and production of NBC’s live musical events that he championed with great success starting in 2013 with “The Sound of Music Live.” Earlier this month, NBC’s most recent production, the much-lauded Easter Sunday staging of “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert,” collected five Emmy awards and made an EGOT out of star John Legend.
Burke heaped praise on Greenblatt’s tenure at NBC, which began in early 2011 just after Comcast closed its acquisition of a majority interest in NBCUniversal. NBC had been in the ratings cellar for years. On Greenblatt’s watch, he turned around the industry’s perception of NBC, greatly strengthened the management team, and revved up the Universal Television arm as a supplier to NBC as well as outside networks ranging from Netflix and Hulu to CBS and Fox.
Burke noted that NBC has ranked No. 1 in the adults 18-49 demographic for five consecutive seasons. Just this month, NBC elbowed past CBS for the crown of most-watched network in total viewers on a September-September basis.
“Bob led NBC to become the most-watched network in household ratings for the first time in nearly two decades. He has also brought a winning spirit to the network and attracted the best creative talent in the business,” Burke said.
“Under his leadership, NBC generated numerous award-winning hit shows, including “This Is Us,” “The Voice,” “Will & Grace,” “The Good Place,” “The Blacklist,” and the Chicago franchise to name a few. Additionally, he helped engineer NBC’s seamless transition in late-night TV, which has kept us dominant in this daypart in a very competitive landscape. He also transformed the studio side of our business, re-establishing Universal Television and setting up our new alternative studio.”
Cheeks has had a fast rise through the NBCU universe since joining in 2012 as exec VP of business operations for NBC and Universal TV. Most recently, Cheeks was co-head of Universal Cable Productions, with Dawn Olmstead, and head of late-night programming for NBC. Before NBC he worked in business affairs at Viacom.
Telegdy joined NBC in early 2009 as head of alternative programming. Earlier in his career, he worked for the BBC in his native Britain, and then relocated to Los Angeles for programming posts at BBC Productions and BBC Worldwide. During that time he was instrumental in developing ABC’s rendition of the BBC format “Dancing With the Stars.”
Here is Burke’s full memo:
I am writing to let you know that that Bob Greenblatt has decided to leave his position as Chairman, NBC Entertainment. This was a difficult decision for Bob, but after a string of extremely successful years at NBC – and as much as I’d like him to stay – he is ready to embark on a new challenge.
I cannot thank Bob enough for the incredible success that NBC has achieved over the last eight years. He has been the architect of one of the largest turnarounds in network television history, leading NBC from last place when he started at NBCU right after Comcast’s acquisition of the company, to number one in the demo for five seasons in a row. This year, Bob led NBC to become the most-watched network in household ratings for the first time in nearly two decades. He has also brought a winning spirit to the network and attracted the best creative talent in the business.
Under his leadership, NBC generated numerous award-winning hit shows, including “This Is Us,” “The Voice,” “Will & Grace,” “The Good Place,” “The Blacklist,” and the Chicago franchise to name a few. Additionally, he helped engineer NBC’s seamless transition in late-night TV, which has kept us dominant in this daypart in a very competitive landscape. He also transformed the studio side of our business, re-establishing Universal Television and setting up our new alternative studio. These studios produce many of the best shows on television for NBC as well as for other platforms, including scripted shows such as “Bates Motel,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “The Mindy Project,” “Master of None,” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” as well as “World of Dance” and “The Wall” on the unscripted side for NBC.
One of Bob’s most innovative achievements was bringing the live musical genre back to network television, creating an annual NBC tradition that has become the envy of our competitors. From the first production of “Sound of Music,” which had 22 million viewers, to this year’s groundbreaking and Emmy Award-winning production of “Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert,” these musicals engage audiences in a new way and have helped to reinvent live television.
Most importantly, Bob deserves credit for cultivating the strongest management team in broadcast television, a team he would be the first to give credit to for the network’s impressive performance. To that end, I am pleased to announce that George Cheeks and Paul Telegdy have been promoted to Co-Chairmen of NBC Entertainment, overseeing the network and both of its studios. We are fortunate to have two extremely talented, capable and complementary executives inside our organization who are ready to step up and help guide us into the future. Having worked closely with George and Paul for years, I’m very confident that their creative instincts, talent relationships and business skills make them the perfect partners for the job. Both executives are beloved by their teams and extremely well-respected by the entire industry.
Paul is a visionary and energetic executive who has helped develop some of the biggest hits in unscripted television today. He played a key role in NBC’s revitalization by acquiring “The Voice” in 2011 and developing it into the first big hit that helped propel NBC back to number one. He also developed “American Ninja Warrior,” “World of Dance,” “Ellen’s Game of Games,” and “America’s Got Talent,” which just cinched the title of #1 alternative show on television. Under his leadership, Universal Television Alternative Studio was launched, which is on its way to becoming a major global player. His passion for broadcast television is evident in everything he does, including his ability to convince top talent, such as Jennifer Lopez, Amy Poehler, Dwayne Johnson, and Kelly Clarkson among others, to make NBC their home.
George is a strategist and masterful dealmaker who knows how to get things done the right way throughout NBCU. He has done an outstanding job leading business operations for NBC and as Co-President of Universal Cable Productions and Wilshire Studios. As President of Late Night at NBC, he has also been instrumental in the success of one of the most popular and lucrative TV lineups in the industry. George’s ability to develop strong relationships has earned him the trust of some of our most discerning marquee talent, including Lorne Michaels, Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers.
To ensure a smooth transition, Bob has agreed to continue to consult with Paul and George as needed, as well as continue to work on our live musicals.
Please join me in congratulating both Paul and George on their new roles, and wishing Bob the very best in his future endeavors – which we hope will involve doing business with us whenever possible.
Here’s to a successful kickoff to the new fall season!
(Pictured: Paul Telegdy, George Cheeks)