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.
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?
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.
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
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