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NATPE Panel: Show Not Over for New Talent Competitions on TV

Complete Coverage: NATPE 2012

Don't close the curtain on talent competition reality shows just yet. That was the message from three of the biggest players in alternative television speaking at a panel during the NATPE conference and market in Miami Monday.

"I wouldn't rush headlong into another talent competition show but never say never," Paul Telegdy, president, alternative and latenight programming, NBC, said in response to the question of whether the talent competition genre is played out. "Because you're able to tap into some primal entertainment instincts of the viewers."

In fact, Telegdy told moderator Mark Itkin, co-head of TV at WME, that despite the apparent glut in the genre, he's in development on "two or three competitions in the talent space."

Telegdy and fellow panelist John Saade, executive VP of alternative and latenight programming for ABC, both emphasized that talent competitions have been and will be around a long time. "Just like I'm not sure drama execs say, ‘We'll never do a drama set in a hospital again,'" Saade said there is still room for more in the genre "just like Raymond followed Cosby, and Grey's followed China Beach."

"To be blunt, this wasn't a revolutionary genre when Idol entered the market," Telegdy said, acknowledging that there's currently a process of "trains backing up in the station a bit" to get them "spaced better."

"It's a busy marketplace, a very competitive marketplace, but it's not saturated," Telegdy said. "'Busy' and ‘competitive' are two very good words in business."

The execs also addressed the future of Saturday late night given Fox's recently announced move to program animation on Saturdays latenight. Both Saade and Telegdy acknowledged the challenging economics of Saturday night -- Saade calls the economics "very, very difficult."

They also agreed there is something of a cultural hurdle in the fact that viewers aren't in the habit of big tune-in Saturday. Telegdy says Saturday Night Live sees an uptick when other programming of interest to the young, male audience, such as football, keeps them in circulation.

"I have aspirations for Saturday night," Telegdy said. "I have no clue what they are but the economics are a complete enigma."