In a surprise announcement today, TBS broke the news that Conan O’Brien will headline an 11 p.m. late-night show for the cable network beginning n November.
His program will serve as a lead-in to Lopez Tonight, which currently airs at 11 p.m. but will shift to a midnight time slot. The network said O’Brien only began talking to execs there last week, and only after Lopez called O’Brien himself. “I can’t think of anything better than doing my show with Conan as a lead-in,” Lopez said in a statement. Added O’Brien, “In three months I’ve gone from network TV to Twitter to performing live in theaters, and now I’m headed to basic cable. My plan is working perfectly.”
The announcement came as a surprise, especially since most assumed that O’Brien would end up on Fox. The broadcast network has been angling to get back into the late-night talk show business. But, they were having trouble convincing their stations to open up the 11 p.m. time slot for a pricey network talk show. Right now, most stations air reruns of sitcoms in the time slot and reap huge profits.
Under the terms of his exit deal from NBC, which left him with a payout of more than $40 million, O’Brien was permitted to pursue other opportunities after Sept. 1. O’Brien has mostly stayed out of the public eye since stepping down from The Tonight Show in January, though he has found a large following on Twitter. He begins a multi-city comedy tour tonight in Eugene, Ore.
It’s debatable whether O’Brien poses a huge threat to the broadcast networks but, his yet-to-be-named show will air Mondays through Thursdays in direct competition with Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. Both shows attract a similar young audience and are currently the top late night shows on cable, but maybe, that is all about to change.
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