Is Fox Making A Mistake With Conan O’Brien?

Published 4 years ago by , Updated February 10th, 2012 at 9:44 am,

conan fox tv mistake Is Fox Making A Mistake With Conan OBrien?

It’s recently been revealed that late-night host Conan O’Brien is in preliminary talks to movie his show to FOX, but as more information comes out about what would be required for the network to secure Conan’s late-night spot, it’s starting to look like they might be putting themselves in the same position with affiliates that eventually led NBC to cancel The Jay Leno Show and, in turn, Conan to leave the network.

When Conan announced that he would be leaving NBC and The Tonight Show on January 22nd, FOX quickly became the obvious choice for his return to television. With FOX executives Peter Rice and Kevin Reilly openly supporting Conan’s move to their network and Rupert Murdoch backing the move – if it makes a profit – what’s holding up the deal?

Two things; the affiliates and money.

Affiliate Troubles

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While FOX big-wigs may be excited about the possibility of Conan setting up shop on their network, the affiliates, rightly, aren’t as enthusiastic because currently they’re making more money airing reruns of The Office, Two and a Half Men and South Park in the 11pm-12pm time slot than they would airing Conan’s new late-night show.

This is similar to the position NBC was in with The Jay Leno Show. Overall, The Jay Leno Show was considered a success by NBC because the low production costs and money saved from not running scripted programming at 10pm meant that they were making a profit – even if the ratings were low.

Despite NBC making a profit, the low ratings meant that The Jay Leno Show was a terrible lead-in (with up to 25% viewer drop off) to the 11pm local news; where the affiliates make most of their money. With the affiliates losing money left and right, The Jay Leno Show wasn’t destined to last long.

A related event might occur to Conan, if he makes the leap to FOX. With FOX known for their 10PM newscast (do you know where your kids are?), affiliates need not worry about any negative repercussions to Conan’s ratings, but if a new late-night show means that they’ll be losing money from the start, how long will it be before the local affiliates start knocking on FOX’s door looking for their reruns back?

The cost of production

If Conan does end up moving to FOX, it’s not going to be the same show people were used to seeing at 11:30. To be honest, it won’t even be the same show people we’re used to seeing at 12:30 and not just because NBC still owns all of Conan’s intellectual property (bye Triumph), but because the network has already told Conan that he would need to significantly cut his salary as well as the $50+ million annual production budget for the show.

How much of an impact will these budget cuts have on Conan’s show? Is that a price he’s willing to pay to be on network television?

Other options

While Conan is currently in talks with FOX, it’s not exclusive and the he’s able to entertain other offers. It’s been said that Conan has been pitched about two dozen ideas for television gigs with six being legitimate enough for consideration.

Although, Conan ideally would want to continue his 17-year trend of hosting a talk show, he’s not against shaking things up and trying something new – as long as it’s a daily show. As of right now, it looks like Conan has three choices; a late-night show on FOX, a syndicated series (possibly in primetime), or a cable show.

As a vehement supporter of Conan during NBC’s railroading, I want nothing more than for him to succeed. I’m just not sure that will be possible if he ends up on FOX.

conan triumph Is Fox Making A Mistake With Conan OBrien?

Do you think Conan’s move to FOX would be successful? Is there a chance for the same affiliate backlash that The Jay Leno Show had? What do you think is the best option for Conan?

Source: Hollywood Reporter and TMZ

Follow me on Twitter @anthonyocasio

It’s recently been revealed that late-night host, Conan O’Brien, is in preliminary talks to movie his show to FOX, but as more information comes out about what would be required for the network to secure Conan’s late-night spot, it’s starting to look like they might be putting themselves in the same position with affiliates that eventually led NBC to cancel The Jay Leno Show and, in turn, Conan to leave the network.

When Conan announced that he would be leaving NBC and The Tonight Show on January 22, FOX quickly became the obvious choice for his return to television. With FOX executives Peter Rice and Kevin Reilly openly supporting Conan’s move to their network and Rupert Murdoch backing the move – if it makes a profit – what’s holding up the deal?

Two things; the affiliates and money.

Affiliate Troubles

While FOX big-wigs may be excited about the possibility of Conan setting up shop on their network, the affiliates, rightly, aren’t as enthusiastic because currently they’re making more money airing reruns of The Office, Two and a Half Men and South Park in the 11pm-12pm time slot than they would airing Conan’s new late-night show.

This is similar to the position NBC was in with The Jay Leno Show. Overall, The Jay Leno Show was considered a success by NBC because the low production costs and money saved from not running scripted programming at 10pm meant that they were making a profit – even if the ratings were low.

Despite NBC making a profit, the low ratings meant that The Jay Leno Show was a terrible lead-in (with up to 25% viewer drop off) to the 11pm local news; where the affiliates make most of their money.

With FOX known for their 10PM newscast (do you know where your kids are?), affiliates need not worry about any negative repercussions to Conan’s ratings, but if a new late-night show means that they’ll be losing money from the start, what’s the point (especially in this economy)?

The cost of production

If Conan does end up moving to FOX, it’s not going to be the same show people were used to seeing at 11:30. To be honest, it won’t even be the same show people we’re used to seeing at 12:30 because the network has already told Conan that he would need to significantly cut his salary as well as the $50+ million annual production budget for the show.

How much of an impact will these budget cuts have on Conan’s show? Is that a price he’s willing to pay to be on network television?

Other options

While Conan is currently in talks with FOX, it’s not exclusive and the he’s able to entertain other offers. It’s been said that Conan has been pitched about two dozen ideas for television gigs with six being legitimate enough for consideration.

Although, Conan ideally would want to continue his 17 year trend of hosting a talk show, he’s not against shaking things up and trying something new – as long as it’s a daily show. As of right now, it looks like Conan has three choices; a late-night show on FOX, a syndicated series (possibly in primetime), or a cable show.

As a vehement supporter of Conan during NBC’s railroading, I want nothing more than for him to succeed. I’m just not sure that will be possible if he ends up on FOX.

Source: Hollywood Reporter and TMZ

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23 Comments

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  1. I think he should have his own cable show on comedy central like the daily show and the colber report. He would fit in nicely on cc and I bet it would be the highest rated show on the network hes just to funny to not be on tv I will watch him where ever he ends up.

  2. Kick Conan while he's down, makes sense…if you're a douchebag. Give the Fox show a chance, they aren't as concerned with beating all ratings as NBC was, so they'll be happy just to have viewers at that hour. Here's an idea, how about we support Conan and Fox's news show by watching it, before whining about how it won't work and basically kicking Conan after everything he's been through? Otherwise, you're just being a douche.

  3. Try reading the piece next time. It has nothing to with viewers… nothing at all.

    I am saying that the local FOX stations will be making LESS money if Conan starts a late-night show on their channel.

    I'm not saying that I don't like Conan, nor am I “kicking him when he's down.” Considering he just pocketed $40 million, you can't say “he's down.”

    I am that the local affiliates are the reason why The Jay Leno show was canceled BECAUSE they (the local affiliates) were losing money.

    If the same thing starts happening on FOX, what do you think will happen? I'd ask you to guess, but I'm sure you haven't actually read this either.

  4. A compromise might work? Local news from 10:00-11:00. Syndicate re-run (The Office, or whatever they want) from 11:00-11:30. The Cone-Zone Crazy Comedy Hour 11:30-12:30. That way affiliates will be making money the hour and a half leading up to Conan, and may even grab a few extra viewers turning to Fox before Conan just not to miss it (as I used to do with Leno when Conan was on Late Night). Just a thought.

  5. Great points, and although I'd rather see him on Comedy Central with his buddies Stewart and Colbert, it's pretty clear Conan wants to stay on network TV. I don't think budget cuts will be that much of an issue — Conan's writers are creative as hell, AND some of the funniest Late Night moments happened because their budget was so low they could only afford crappy props that fell apart during the bits. Here's hoping whatever he decides to do works out. I know I'd watch him at 8 in the morning on Oxygen if I had to.

  6. I'm with you… I will follow Coco wherever he goes. I will watch any show he ends up with on any channel.

  7. Either way, he'll need to move out of his comfort zone (network, big budget production, etc.) in order to find himself and new success (which is why I supported him going out on tour – being on tour, he'll find his voice and realize he won't need a billion-dollar budget to entertain people – nobody does, really, if they're good).

    I agree, however, that FOX cannot take that chance right now. They lose no matter what and if I were one of the affiliates, I'd raise holly hell if they threatened to cut into so much as $5 of my money much less millions.

    Conan, it's time to break new ground. Find it, christen it, own it. Your fans will be there.

  8. to the author:
    -you are being unduly negative, notwithstanding that you say you are a fan of conan.
    -first, the leno show analogy you make is fallacious. the leno show lost everyone, including nbc, not merely the affiliates, money. it lost nbc money because it cost them ad revenue and destroyed the entire night's lineup, probably even the morning shows. (how many people turn the tv on in the morning to the last station it was on the night before? I, for one). with leno the entire pie was smaller.
    the issue with conan on fox is an issue is not a smaller pie, but how to divide that pie. those third and fourth generation syndicated reruns are not going to be able to draw an audience and ad revenue and profits as a conan on fox show could. it's merely whether fox will share some of the increased revenue (and the siphoned revenue) with the affiliates. currently, the affiliates control the ads and ad revenue that hour, but with conan it presumably would go back to fox. again, this is not an issue of the size of the pie, but how you divide the pie. the pie will be bigger with conan. anyone thinking that the pie will be smaller with conan should go work for nbc, because that's the logic that got nbc into last place.
    -second, the budget. yes, conan had a huge budget with the tonight show, but do you realize that he managed to build a huge audience with the late night with conan o'brien show without much of a budget at all. there is another blog with the author hoping that conan brings back the fedex pope character. the fedex pope character had a zero cost, being it was one of his actors with a fedex box on his head. conan does not need a budget to be funny.
    -answers to your questions:
    1) Do you think Conan’s move to FOX would be successful? yes, hugely.
    2) Is there a chance for the same affiliate backlash that The Jay Leno Show had? no. leno was the lead in for the news, but at fox, the news will be the lead in for conan.
    What do you think is the best option for Conan? conan on fox, without a doubt!

  9. conan never had a big budget production comfort zone.
    in fact, he probably was more comfortable with his low budget late night with conan o'brien gig…
    if fox lets conan run with it without interference, even a low budget show will be great.
    it's too bad that nbc took down all of conan's old shows because if they were still up I could prove my point by having you all go look at his old work.

  10. Obviously, you would better know what MY feelings and intentions are.

    I want Conan to succeed, but on a platform that will allow him to. If the parent network, FOX, is having to strong-arm the local affiliates into airing his show then it doesn't exactly sound like he's set up for success now does it?

    If you want to talk semantics, which you obviously do, we can talk about the retransmission consent that FOX is looking to have the local affiliates pay part of which will impact their bottom line as well.

  11. Face it! You're a Negative Nancy and you want Conan to fail because it would warm the cockles of your heart to see him doing poorly in life.

  12. you said you are a conan fan, and I take you on your work on that. I also think you want him to succeed. however, I still think your views are too negative here. You have your views, I have my views,….isn't that why you created your blog?

  13. Of course not! The whole point is to agree with me!

    ;-)

  14. You pose some interesting questions here. I will watch Conan on whichever network or platform he chooses but I would think FOX would be the most lucrative for him. I agree with the poster who suggested the News, The Office (b/c I refuse to endorse anything having to do with Two and a Half Men) and then CoCo. Either way, we still have a long way to go before we get to see our favorite Ginger back on TV. :(

  15. You make some good points in your post, but I feel like your losing a few important points. First of all, Conan can make slight changes to his characters to move them to his show(triumph hets a name change and a hat, etc.) Letterman did it too(and borrowed Carnac) without any legal ramification.

    Fox doesn't have to worry about local affiliates because it's primetime block is strong enough already. With the amount of press conan is generating, as Late Night television viewers stay dissatisfied with leno and letterman, Conan would capture the younger demographic on his new show launch easily. Budget cuts won't even begin to affect him because he's already running a stage show that would be well below the tonight show budget, and his monday launch(which would coincide with a new season of house) would push him to an astounding number of viewers.

  16. You have good points. I really hate sounding like the Negative Nancy because I'm not trying to be.

    Conan can tweak his characters in order to bring them over and I'm sure his debut shows will have good numbers, but how long will that last? There's always a ratings surge the first couple of weeks, but then things slow down.

    Late-night numbers have never been all that high considering the audience is so much smaller. “The Marriage Ref,” which is absolutely horrible, has around the same ratings as Leno and Letterman combined.

    With Conan's move to FOX, they're going to be betting on the late-night audience expanding because while Conan is the “in” thing right now, his show isn't going to actually impact Letterman or Leno's ratings that much.

    It's all about time. Conan can and will work, if given enough time. That's what happened with Kimmel – it took years for him to get where he is now. Same thing happened with Conan when he originally started on NBC – nobody expected him to last his first year.

    Conan could have and would have worked on NBC, if they would have given him time. The Jay Leno Show made it so NBC had to fix things quick.

    If the local affiliates are losing money because of Conan's show, are they going to give him the time he needs to build an audience and become profitable? Especially if it might take a couple years to do so?

    Their parent network, FOX, will have no problem giving him time, but in this economy, can the local affiliates afford to?

  17. Of course not! The whole point is to agree with me!

    ;-)

  18. You pose some interesting questions here. I will watch Conan on whichever network or platform he chooses but I would think FOX would be the most lucrative for him. I agree with the poster who suggested the News, The Office (b/c I refuse to endorse anything having to do with Two and a Half Men) and then CoCo. Either way, we still have a long way to go before we get to see our favorite Ginger back on TV. :(

  19. You make some good points in your post, but I feel like your losing a few important points. First of all, Conan can make slight changes to his characters to move them to his show(triumph hets a name change and a hat, etc.) Letterman did it too(and borrowed Carnac) without any legal ramification.

    Fox doesn't have to worry about local affiliates because it's primetime block is strong enough already. With the amount of press conan is generating, as Late Night television viewers stay dissatisfied with leno and letterman, Conan would capture the younger demographic on his new show launch easily. Budget cuts won't even begin to affect him because he's already running a stage show that would be well below the tonight show budget, and his monday launch(which would coincide with a new season of house) would push him to an astounding number of viewers.

  20. You have good points. I really hate sounding like the Negative Nancy because I'm not trying to be.

    Conan can tweak his characters in order to bring them over and I'm sure his debut shows will have good numbers, but how long will that last? There's always a ratings surge the first couple of weeks, but then things slow down.

    Late-night numbers have never been all that high considering the audience is so much smaller. “The Marriage Ref,” which is absolutely horrible, has around the same ratings as Leno and Letterman combined.

    With Conan's move to FOX, they're going to be betting on the late-night audience expanding because while Conan is the “in” thing right now, his show isn't going to actually impact Letterman or Leno's ratings that much.

    It's all about time. Conan can and will work, if given enough time. That's what happened with Kimmel – it took years for him to get where he is now. Same thing happened with Conan when he originally started on NBC – nobody expected him to last his first year.

    Conan could have and would have worked on NBC, if they would have given him time. The Jay Leno Show made it so NBC had to fix things quick.

    If the local affiliates are losing money because of Conan's show, are they going to give him the time he needs to build an audience and become profitable? Especially if it might take a couple years to do so?

    Their parent network, FOX, will have no problem giving him time, but in this economy, can the local affiliates afford to?

  21. I will watch CoCo where ever he goes

  22. Another problem for Fox: Conan lost to Letterman, and at 11 to 12 he would be going opposite the first half hour of Letterman AND Leno, plus Stewart and Colbert. He belongs at 12:30 or later. Unfortunately, NBC offered him 12:05 and he turned it down.

  23. There was an article a few weeks ago (I believe in Entertainment Weekly) similar to this, asking if Conan should really jump into bed with Fox given their track record of late night television and the direct competition with Leno and Letterman. They brought up good points that if he started on Comedy Central or FX with a late night show, since it's cable if the didn't pull 4 million it wouldn't hurt his legacy or anything where as if he went straight to Fox and was only able to pull 2 million a night, he'd lose all his good will he got as the victim of NBC and likely not get another chance as a late night host.

    Also, I think if he did start on Fox, starting at 11 would give him an advantage at establishing his audience before Leno and Lettermen started their shows. Since Leno or Letterman don't really get to their gimmicks and guests until late in the first half, that'd be about the time Conan would be doing a musical act so even if he lost some there, they'd still be around for most of the show allowing him to hold on to good ratings.

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