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Fox throws a little gasoline on the Conan O'Brien fire

Fox, never one to miss an opportunity to make a competitor's life more difficult, has indicated that if Conan O'Brien wants to leave NBC, it would be happy to talk.

CONANO O'Brien, who is being asked 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, has not made up his mind on whether he'll take one for the team or take a walk. Leno's moving back to late night because NBC affiliates are beyond frustrated with his 10 p.m. show and what its ratings are doing to their late local news.

Of course, Fox has toyed with late night before (Chevy Chase, anyone?), but quietly telling inquiring reporters that "Conan would be a great fit for Fox" could be just as much about annoying NBC chiefs Jeff Zucker and Jeff Gaspin as it is about trying to start its own late-night franchise.

Fox couldn't just jump into the late-night game. It would have to ask, and in some cases beg, its affiliates for the time to carry a late show. The stations won't hand over that time just out of the goodness of their hearts. Furthermore, Fox is already asking (or is it demanding?) that its affiliates give it a cut of any money they get from cable operators for carrying their signals. The logic is that because Fox provides the affiliates with programming, it should get a cut of any money distributors pay them to carry the signal.

While Fox is spinning one thing, it is unclear whether the brass at its parent company News Corp. are really that interested in getting into this game. It's true the network made a run at Conan six years ago (a move that led NBC to anoint Conan as Jay Leno's eventual successor, which led NBC to put Leno in prime time, which led to the mess NBC currently finds itself in), but the company may have different priorities now.

If Fox does seriously go after O'Brien, it won't be cheap. Yes, NBC may have big penalties to pay O'Brien  if he were to be bounced from "The Tonight Show." But right now NBC is only talking about bouncing O'Brien out of his time slot, not the show (so tricky!). NBC could even bench O'Brien for a couple of years if he does want to leave, although it would be more likely to try to extract big payment from whoever wants his services.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Conan O'Brien. Credit: Reed Saxon / Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (71)

I won't watch Conan on fox. I won't watch anything on Fox!

-------------According to this news, NBC may put Leno back on the Tonight show--
--but they could loose O'Brien. Evidently --the NBC policy group are the 
same type of policy makers as Obama and his bumbling gang- that is;--in a
short time they will screw up and loose both our wars - -but gain a few
thousand more terrorists. ---


Conan is soooo much better than Leno. NBC is tanking itself.

If it were not for the Simpsons, and that early 1990's after school cartoon block (xmen, spiderman etc) --- Fox would be total crap.

Conan, the simpsons, adultswim, g4TV, and some syfy channel, and some comedy central stuff should all start a new network. Screw NBC, CBS, Fox etc...

i think they'll do whats in the best interest of the ratings, since that's the primary goal of the network and anyone who has a stake in it. but i don't see how conan going over to fox would work since he won't take as many viewers over with him and any new audience he would attract wouldn't match the numbers that he left behind. its too big a business to start throwing frisbees around the park just to see where they land.

I love Conan! I saw a taping last month and the enthusiasm of the audience was electric. I would be bummed if they bumped him. I could never watch Leno. Only really old people watch Leno, its comedy for the simple minded. If NBC sticks it out with Conan it will pay off.

Falon stinks. Leno is not prime time material and I haven't seen Conan in months because my TV never lands on NBC after 10:00pm. I knew this was going to tank when they announced it. Oh well, it would be hilarious to see Conan on Fox after making so many swipes against them. Kind of shows the hypocrisy of the whole game.

Dear Glenn Beck-watching crazies,

please let me read articles about TV show time slots in peace without your very insightful and valued political commentary.

Thank you.

I would watch O'Brian over Leno anytime!

I dont watch Conan now so why would I start at Fox. he is boring!!

I like Leno but Letterman is king

As for not watching anything on FOX just because it is on FOX--perfect example of a true liberal--"don't confuse me with other facts-- I am elite "

I find it shameful that NBC doesn't just admit the Jay at 10 experiment isn't working, and leave Conan alone to build his audience.Put good shows back on at 10, employ creative people and move on.
And Francesco, how you turn this into a dig at Obama is amazingly shallow. Give me a break !!

FOX execs looking to waste Rupert's money again. Conan won't draw flies over there either. Their are 300 million Americans and "Glee" barely does 8 million viewers and repeats very, very poorly...but that's a hit...meanwhile they tossed "Modern Family" to ABC and that did 10 mill plus and a 4.1 this week. Take away the NFL games and the World Series and baseball playoffs and FOX's Fall numbers don't look so good. But they fudge their numbers just like the government does with their economic reports that says all is honky dory. And with "Human Target"...he's supposed to be a master of disguise and make himself look, walk and talk like the intended victim...but they watered it down.

The way NBC brass is handling this is just proof the company is run by chimps.

NBC must be run by the same people who run American car companies.

I hate how no one mentions that Conan's low viewing numbers may be directly related to splitting viewership with Leno's 10pm show! If Jay would have bowed out respectfully, then many of his Tonight Show fans would have converted and the viewing numbers would have been much higher.

I have been waiting years to have Conan hosting The Tonight Show. Now I can see Conan at a reasonable hour. Please don't take that away from me NBC!!!

Both guys aren't funny let them both go

Did you know Conan was once the brain child behind the Simpsons?

Fox (or maybe Disney/ABC) should offer NBCU an old cartoon character for Conan, just like NBCU gave Oswald the Lucky Rabbit back to Disney for Al Michaels.

@ Matt
Did you know Conan was once the brain child behind the Simpons?

O'Brien is boring. Leno is past his prime

How about finding some new talent?

I feel bad for Conan. Leno has always been lame, Letterman should have gotten the Tonight Show instead of that dork. He should have at least retired gracefully and left on a positive note, instead of tarnishing his run with that ill-advised 10 pm show.

If they bump Conan, he should walk. Just avoid FOX, nothing good has come out of there since the Simpsons stopped being funny. Unless you're a far-right-wing lunatic, of course.

Leno lost his sense of humor when he sold out to Doritos. Conan tries, but his skits are so lame and his sidekick is pathetic. Letterman is the only one with cutting edge, original ideas. Thank God we still have him. NBC can shift things around all they want, won't change a thing, Leno is just plain boring and his interview skills are the worst of any of them. I can't see Fox going after Conan, if anything they should go after Craig Ferguson. This guy is REALLY FUNNY!!! But Letterman is his boss and he will keep him happy.

Leno needs to go off the air. Anyone who thinks he's remotely funny is insane!!! I've never laughed at a Leno joke...they're so predictable.

Put a good program at 10pm...cut this BS Leno show, and give O'Brien a good lead in...he's waaaaayyyyy better than Leno.

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