Bill Carter has it today in the New York Times--Conan O'Brien has agreed to a deal which will see him host a late night talk show at U.S. cable network TBS. The show could be on the air as early as November.
O'Brien, who left NBC's The Tonight Show in February, had been in talks to launch a late night talk show at Fox. There was always problems with that move, chief among them a reluctance among Fox affiliates to ditch their already profitable reruns from 11 p.m. to midnight to accommodate O'Brien. The Fox network also was apparently not prepared to spend the roughly million-and-a-half a week or $90 million annually NBC had been spending to produce O'Brien's previous late night efforts, offering, according to some reports, $60 million annually.
O'Brien released a typically self-deprecating statement today on the news: “In three months I’ve gone from network television to Twitter to performing live in theaters, and now I’m headed to basic cable. My plan is working perfectly.”
Jumping to cable doesn't really keep O'Brien off too many screens. TBS is available in 100.4 million of the 114.9 million cable homes in the United States.
O'Brien's 30-city live concert tour, which has stops in Vancouver (this Tuesday and Wednesday) and Toronto, begins tonight in Eugene, Ore. TBS got into late night this season with the successful launch of The George Lopez show, which will now slide to midnight, allowing O'Brien's new effort to air at 11 p.m. O'Brien's old NBC series Late Night consistently scored with 18-49-year-old viewers, a demo the U.S. cable network covets.
The cable network has traditionally been the home of several off-network sitcoms and comedies, as O'Brien acknowledges in today's twitter post: "The good news: I will be doing a show on TBS starting in November! The bad news: I'll be playing Rudy on the all new Cosby Show."
TBS, which is owned by Time Warner, does not currently air on Canadian cable or satellite stations (we get the Atlanta sister station "Peachtree" instead), but a Canadian network is likely to pick up the series.
UPDATE: Nikke Finke has some of the details in her latest update over at Deadline Hollywood Daily here, including word that the deal essentially went down in two days and that O'Brien will be staying put in L.A.
2ND UPDATE: Long time late night watcher Aaron Barnhart says Conan on cable will be bigger than the Daily Show.