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Rupert Murdoch needs to be convinced Conan O'Brien can make money for Fox

February 2, 2010 |  4:10 pm

News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch said it's up to Fox Broadcasting to make a case that a late-night show hosted by Conan O'Brien can make money.

MURDOCH "We’re giving it a lot of thought and a lot of examination,” Murdoch said when asked during a conference call on the company's second quarter earnings about the prospect of Fox doing a deal with O'Brien to host a late-night show for the network. O'Brien walked away from his job as host of NBC's "The Tonight Show" last month after the network told him it wanted to move the show from 11:35 p.m. to after midnight to make room for Jay Leno's return to late night from prime time.

Murdoch said the programmers at Fox Broadcasting -- Peter Rice and Kevin Reilly need to "show us we can do it and be fairly confident of making a profit." Murdoch's remarks echoed those that News Corp. Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey and Fox Television Stations boss Roger Ailes made to Company Town last month about the prospects of O'Brien being signed to a deal.

The issue for Fox is getting time in late night from its affiliate stations to carry O'Brien. The Fox affiliates and the Fox-owned TV stations carry reruns of sitcoms in that hour that make them a lot of money. "I’m sure we’d have difficult renegotiations," Murdoch said of trying to get the go-ahead from affiliates to put O'Brien on the air.

The mogul said that although there have been some conversations with O'Brien's camp, there have been no "real negotiations."

--  Joe Flint

Related Post: News Corp.'s Chase Carey and Roger Ailes need to see the numbers before signing off on O'Brien.

Photo: News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch. Credit: Paul J. Richards / AFP/Getty Images.
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