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News Corp.'s Carey and Ailes need to see the numbers before jumping on Conan bandwagon

January 14, 2010 | 10:57 am

News Corp. executives Chase Carey and Roger Ailes, both of whom will have a strong say over whether Fox goes after Conan O'Brien for a late-night show if he leaves NBC, will wait to see the numbers on what such a move would cost before weighing in on a decision.

CONANOB O'Brien is currently at war with NBC over its decision to move "The Tonight Show" from 11:35 p.m. to 12:05 a.m. to make room for Jay Leno's return to late night from prime time. O'Brien has said he is not interested in moving his show but has not quit yet.

While Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly have been open about his interest in O'Brien, this is the first time Carey and Ailes have spoken publicly on the subject,

"We should always be evaluating opportunities," Carey said, adding that he would for now leave it to Fox Entertainment Chairman Peter Rice and Reilly to make a preliminary evaluation.

Ailes, who oversees the Fox's television stations as well as the Fox News Channel, thought that a move into late night would not be without a financial hit.

"It's a tough time period," Ailes said, The Fox stations, which include KTTV-TV Los Angeles and WNYW-TV New York, carry expensive reruns at 11 p.m., which is probably where the network would want to put O'Brien if they were to land him. Ailes said the stations' contracts for programming would have to be written off. Ailes declined to discuss the late-night situation further, saying, "I don't want to influence discussions."

Clearing the time periods with the Fox stations and the network's affiliates is just one hurdle. Fox would also have to build or lease a studio, spend millions promoting O'Brien and probably have to pay NBC to get the network to release him from his deal there.

In other words, it's not as easy as walking off NBC one night and popping up on Fox the next night. The earliest O'Brien could land on Fox would be September and more likely would be January 2011, if not later.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Conan O'Brien. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times.

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