Conan's TBS Deal Greeted Warmly (Except Maybe By Fox)
Industry reaction in the hours following today's surprise announcement was broadly positive, but the news most likely tweaked the nose of the Fox Broadcasting Company, which had been seen as O'Brien's most likely next home. It also sets the scene for an 11PM showdown with funnyman Jon Stewart's 'The Daily Show' on Comedy Central.
"In my opinion it's a surprise to the industry, but it makes a lot of sense," Colby Hall, the managing editor of media analysis Web site Mediaite, told PopEater. "Conan is a coup for TBS, and especially for [head of programming] Michael Wright. He's the one who signed George Lopez, and they've long coveted a smart late-night program."
O'Brien's manager, Gavin Polone, told the New York Times the deal with TBS took just 10 days to broker. He was also careful to spin the story so that audiences don't expect a feud with George Lopez, since the shunting back of his show to midnight echoes an ugly phase of O'Brien's earlier fight with Jay Leno. (NBC had wanted to move O'Brien's 'Tonight Show' back to 12:05 so Leno's own program could have the plum 11PM slot -- a strategy that lead to open civil war.)
In an explanation echoed by an account on TMZ, Polone said that O'Brien and Lopez spoke personally to ensure there was no bad blood in having 'Lopez Tonight' move back an hour.
Colby Hall said he had no direct knowledge of the value of Conan's contract, but that reports priced the deal at around $10 million. But he added that O'Brien's much-ballyhooed departure from NBC will likely be a boon to his new venture.
"The measure for success is very different on TBS than it was for NBC for a variety of reasons," said Hall. "Conan's departure [from 'The Tonight Show'] crystallized and helped cement a really loyal following that will make this show stronger -- it created a 'cult of Coco.' Since he was forced off NBC, this new show is more likely to succeed."
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