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Richard A. Ludwin (born May 27, 1948) is an American television executive and former vice president at NBC Television. He is notable as the executive who backed Jerry Seinfeld's series Seinfeld, which went on to become one of the most popular and successful television sitcoms of all time.[1] He was also the head of NBC's late night programming during the Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno conflict in 2010.[2]

Rick Ludwin
Richard A. Ludwin

(1948-05-27) May 27, 1948 (age 71)
Cleveland, Ohio
Alma materMiami University
OccupationNBC television executive
Years active1980–2012
Known forChampioning Seinfeld's first season

Early life and educationEdit

Ludwin, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, graduating with a degree in mass communications in 1970.[3][4] He has since donated items and memorabilia – including 15 original Seinfeld scripts – to the university, where it is now housed as the Rick Ludwin Collection.[5]


In the 1970s, Ludwin wrote jokes for Bob Hope and produced a variety show that aired in Ohio.[6] After graduating from college, Ludwin joined NBC in 1980 and worked at the network for 32 years, during which time he was executive vice president of late night and special programming. As vice president, he oversaw The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and Saturday Night Live, and championed several notable series, including Seinfeld and The Office.[7]

Even though Ludwin had never worked on a sitcom before, he commissioned the Seinfeld pilot "The Seinfeld Chronicles," which aired in 1989. Other NBC executives wanted to pass on the series, but Ludwin lobbied on behalf of the show and used money from his specials budget to order four more episodes. Though market testing was mostly negative in response to "The Seinfeld Chronicles," Ludwin believed in the show so much he canceled a planned Bob Hope special in order to finance Seinfeld's first full season.[8][9] Ludwin, who is not Jewish himself, also defended the show and its content when then-NBC President Brandon Tartikoff worried it was "too New York" and "too Jewish" and thus would not be popular with mainstream American audiences.[10] The series was immensely popular, earning NBC more than $2 billion during its nine seasons, with an additional $3 billion in syndication deals.[11]

Ludwin was promoted from executive vice president to senior vice president in 2005. Following the 2010 Tonight Show conflict, Ludwin fell out of favor with Jay Leno, who was unhappy the executive had backed Conan O'Brien over him. Leno reportedly stopped communicating with Ludwin. In September 2011, NBC announced that Ludwin would be transitioned into a consultant for the network.[12][13] He left NBC in 2012.[7]


  1. ^ Rosenthal, Phil (August 21, 2005). "NBC executive stands apart by taking stands". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  2. ^ Carter, Bill (2010). The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy. Penguin. p. 66. ISBN 9781101443422. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  3. ^ "Mass Comm alumnus returns to campus for 34th time". The Miami Student. October 14, 2015. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  4. ^ "Summer '07 - Stay Tuned". Miamian Magazine. Miami University. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  5. ^ "Rick Ludwin Collection". Miami University Special Collections & Archives.
  6. ^ Grant, Adam (2017). Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. Penguin. pp. 44–46. ISBN 9780143128854. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Rick Ludwin Shares Years of Late Night Insight". KCRW. February 20, 2015. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  8. ^ Armstrong, Jennifer Keishin (2016). Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything. Simon and Schuster. pp. 33–35. ISBN 9781476756127. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  9. ^ Lowry, Brian (February 17, 2014). "From Allen to Fallon, Exec Has Worked With All 6 'Tonight Show' Hosts". Variety. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  10. ^ Neuwirth, Allan. They'll Never Put that on the Air: An Oral History of Taboo-breaking TV Comedy. Allworth Press. pp. 350–351. ISBN 9781581158489.
  11. ^ Fahey, Mark (May 31, 2015). "'Seinfeld': 25 years of making beaucoup bucks". CNBC. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
  12. ^ "Truly End of an Era with Rick Ludwin Leaving NBC After 31 Years". TV Week. September 16, 2011. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  13. ^ Carter, Bill (September 15, 2011). "Rick Ludwin to Leave Late Night Post at NBC". The New York Times. Retrieved April 16, 2017.

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