Conan will have ownership of his TBS show
But as part of his deal with Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting to host a late-night show on TBS, O'Brien will have ownership of the show. That will give him the potential to make a lot more money than if he were just a hired hand hosting a show owned by a network. O'Brien's deal is for five years.
A deal between O'Brien's camp and TBS was struck in about 72 hours, according to people involved in the talks. TBS had previously indicated it was not interested in O'Brien, but Turner Entertainment chief Steve Koonin said in an interview that was in part because "we assumed he had a deal with Fox."
Koonin reached out to O'Brien's team and then went back to his own late-night host, George Lopez, who was also enthusiastic about the idea of bringing Conan to TBS. O'Brien will have his show at 11 p.m. and Lopez will move to midnight. Though Lopez will have a later time period, he will probably also have a bigger lead-in audience.
With its deal to have Conan O'Brien anchor its late-night line-up, TBS finally seems poised to step out of the shadow of its sexier younger sister TNT. TBS has always been a cash cow for Time Warner but is still primarily known for its reruns of broadcast sitcoms such as "Family Guy" and "The Office."
"We think Conan will of course help us attract other talent," Koonin said.
Fox, meanwhile, has not issued any statement about the O'Brien deal. Interestingly, the network is set to meet with its affiliates at the National Assn. of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, where the idea of O'Brien coming to Fox was expected to be a topic of discussion.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: Conan O'Brien in his office at Universal Studios last year. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times