Get ready to see less of Conan O'Brien.
TBS is planning to retool late-night talk show "Conan" to a weekly format instead of a nightly one, Turner CEO John Martin told TheWrap. It's not immediately clear when this will occur.
The chairman spoke to TheWrap at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Wednesday night and explained that the show has worked best with O'Brien on the road. The comic and "Late Night" alum has recently taken his show to Cuba, Berlin and South Korea, among other locations. Those trips have proved a boon both creatively and in Nielsen TV ratings.
Martin also believes one-hour weekly will just prove better for the show. Samantha Bee does exactly that, by the way, and she's made some waves of her own since "Full Frontal" launched on TBS.
Part of the reason for the switch, Martin said, is that late night's just too crowded and competitive. He added that O'Brien is holding his own, however. That said, Conan regularly loses in Nielsen TV ratings to cable competition "The Daily Show" -- and by a pretty decent margin.
"Conan" producer Conaco did not immediately respond to TheWrap's requests for comment. A spokesman for TBS had no comment when initially reached. A spokesman for Turner did not return calls or emails seeking response.
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Conan O’Brien’s late-night show may be going off the nightly grind.
Turner Entertainment’s chief creative officer, Kevin Reilly, said on Thursday that Mr. O’Brien’s nightly talk show, “Conan,” which he has hosted on TBS since 2010, would most likely undergo changes at some point in the future. He said no decision had been reached on how frequently the TBS show would run but he stressed that Mr. O’Brien would be an active part of any conversation about changes.
“Whether it’s a one-hour talk show five a nights week, or a half-hour five nights a week, or a one-hour once a week, I honestly don’t know,” Mr. Reilly said in an interview. “But it’s all on the table, and so, yes, things are going to change.”
Part of the process, he said, would involve figuring out what a late-night show should look like in the digital age and give Mr. O’Brien time to work on other projects for the network, including digital initiatives. An altered show could also give Mr. O’Brien more time to do remote segments, and to go on the road with the show, as he has been doing more frequently in recent years.
Already, Mr. O’Brien is a producer on the TBS comedy “People of Earth” and the coming animated series “Final Space,” and Mr. Reilly said the network was developing a new show that would be a spinoff of the “Conan” segment “Clueless Gamer.”
The Wrap, a news site, reported earlier on Thursday that Mr. O’Brien’s show would be undergoing changes. Mr. Reilly said it was not a foregone conclusion that Mr. O’Brien’s show would be going weekly.
Mr. Reilly insisted that the network would be “in business with Mr. O’Brien for a long time,” and that this would include a talk show. He also said that the late-night star was under contract until 2018 and that “Conan” would probably be renewed. He said Mr. O’Brien’s compensation would not change even if his show or its schedule did.
Mr. O’Brien’s agent and a spokesman for Mr. O’Brien’s show declined to comment.
There has never been more late-night competition. There are a slew of new faces, including Trevor Noah, James Corden and Samantha Bee. Though Mr. O’Brien has a loyal online following, he has struggled in the ratings. His show averages a little more than 600,000 viewers, less than half the audience for Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah,” which averages more than 1.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen.
But Mr. Reilly said he was unconcerned about ratings and focused instead on what Mr. O’Brien’s following could do for the network in the future.
“It’s a crowded landscape on TV, and it’s evolving,” Mr. Reilly said. “What’s exciting to me is what are we going to do about that? How do we take an unbelievable talent like Conan and a relationship with an audience that’s happening in the digital world and in the TV world and evolve that into something works in concert together to become a really vibrant brand? That’s intellectually really stimulating to me. And it is to Conan as well.”
TBS says there are no plans to switch Conan O’Brien’s late-night show to a weekly format
Hours after a story from TheWrap reported that Conan O’Brien’s late-night show was switching to a weekly series, TBS says there are no plans in the works to change the show’s format.
“Conan remains an invaluable franchise, partner and producer for our TBS brand and we’ll be in business with him for a long time,” TBS President Kevin Reilly said in a statement on Thursday afternoon. “As the media landscape continues to evolve, Conan will continue to lead the evolution of what a talk show will be in the digital age. At this time, we have no plans to change the format or frequency of his popular TBS show. In addition to Conan’s daily responsibilities to his talk show, we continue to have very ambitious plans that will further broaden and evolve our relationship with Conan.”
“Conan” currently airs on TBS four nights a week. While at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Turner chief executive John Martin told TheWrap that TBS “is planning to retool” the show to a weekly series, though there’s no word on when it will change. His reasoning was that there’s too much competition in late-night TV, and that while O’Brien is “holding his own” among the many hosts, airing only once a week could benefit the show.
Later on Thursday, Reilly and “Conan” executive producer Jeff Ross both reiterated that there will be no changes for a while — and O’Brien isn’t going anywhere.
“There is no deal. There is no decision. And nothing is going to happen in ’17,” Ross told Vulture, adding that they have talked with the network about multiple ways the show could evolve, since four nights a week is challenging when O’Brien does so many remote segments.
Reilly echoed similar thoughts to the Hollywood Reporter, and emphasized how important O’Brien is for the network, given that he also executive produces shows for TBS and has become “the face of Comic Con.” He also mentioned O’Brien’s huge online audience with viral videos.
“That’s the part we’re trying to figure out; how does that all work together?” Reilly said. “The media landscape is changing and a guy who can toggle in back and forth between a number of different platforms, how does that all work together and how does that become formalized?”
Thanks to the glut of late-night shows on broadcast and cable, it has become increasingly difficult for hosts to break through. “What does it mean that there are literally more talk-show hosts than active jurors in America right now?” O’Brien joked to The Washington Post in an interview last year. As a result, O’Brien doubled down on the unique aspects of his show, such as remote bits and traveling around the world for special episodes (something that Martin told TheWrap is O’Brien’s sweet spot).
While the weekly format does help certain late-night shows (HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver, TBS’s own acclaimed “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee”), it would be a first for O’Brien. A former “Simpsons” writer, he was a surprise choice to take over NBC’s “Late Night With David Letterman” in 1991 when Letterman went to CBS. O’Brien has been one of the most prolific names in late-night TV ever since. He had his brief stint as host of “The Tonight Show” in 2009 before that famously ended in controversial fashion with Jay Leno returning to the program. Then it was on to TBS in November 2010, where he has become the longest-reigning host in late-night.
O’Brien — whose contract with TBS expires in late 2018 — has made headlines in recent years for his viral videos, such as one in which Ice Cube and Kevin Hart taught his staffer how to drive, as well as his episodes from places around the world, including Cuba, Armenia and Berlin. In the early part of last year, as O’Brien averaged about 734,000 viewers a night (as compared with shows like “The Daily Show” with 1.4 million viewers and the highest-rated, “The Tonight Show,” with 3.6 million), network executives looked for ways to capitalize on O’Brien’s many online viewers.
“When Conan goes out of the country, people quote bits of his — clearly they have not watched at 11 on TBS,” network President Kevin Reilly told the Post. “We don’t know if, ultimately, a show evolves more of that and less of a formatted talk show.”