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Code Red for TBS

11/08/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

Conan O’Brien
jumps back into the late-night
waters on Nov. 8
with the aptly named
Conan show at 11 p.m.

The pool is crowded:
Not only is Leno manning
The Tonight Show
again, but CBS’s Late
Show with David Letterman

and ABC’s Nightline
and Jimmy Kimmel
Live
are long-established
broadcast players.

That competition has
been heightened by cable’s
charge. E!’s Chelsea
Lately
, Car toon
Network’s Nielsen spinoff
Adult Swim, TBS’s
Lopez Night , BET’s
Mo’Nique, and Comedy
Central’s The Colbert
Report
have all carved
out their own audiences.
Moreover, Comedy Central’s
The Daily Show With
Jon Stewart
upped the
Nielsen ante by averaging
1.3 million adults 18
to 49 in October, the first
time anyone not named
Jay or Dave had sat atop
Madison Avenue’s mostcoveted
demo in the daypart
since 2000.

For O’Brien, it’s been
a long, strange trip since
his very public fallout
from NBC’s decision to
return Jay Leno from
his ill-advised primetime
foray and to push
O’Brien’s version of The
Tonight Show
back to
midnight.

O’Brien’s reluctance
to comply and the finger-
pointing among his
predecessor and NBC
executives followed. Next
up was a $32.5 million
exit settlement with the
Peacock and the comic’s
“Legally Prohibited From
Being Funny On Television”
comedy tour. There
were flirtations with Fox
before his surprise signing
with TBS in April. The
redhead then appeared
at the “Very Funny” network’s
upfront presentation
to advertisers in New
York in May.

Since then, there has
been a tide of continual
promotion on TBS’s
coverage of the Major
League Baseball postseason
and other outlets,
including the teamcoco.com website.

TBS, TNT and TCM
programming chief Michael
Wright believes
O’Brien will bring his
own viewers to TBS.
“There are a number
of people out there not
watching TV, who are
waiting for the return of
his show,” said Wright.

Others will come
from across the latenight
landscape. “It will
be more of an aggregate
from other shows. Conan
will take a bit from each,
rather than any show in
particular.”

Wright figures Conan
will benefit from the audience
flow provided by
TBS original lead-ins
like Meet the Browns and
such off -network fare as
The Office.

“On NBC, Conan was
coming out of local news
programming,” said
Wright. “Here, Conan, because
TBS has a robust
comedy audience, won’t
have to recalibrate himself
every night. There will be
audience flow into Conan
and then his alchemy for
Lopez Tonight (which is
moving to midnight).”

So, just how big will
Conan be? “He’ll be measured
against Lopez Tonight
and the other cable
shows, not so much on the
half-hour overlays against
Leno and Letterman,”
Horizon Media senior vice
president of research Brad
Adgate said.

Katz Media Group vice
president of programming
Bill Carroll said
that is already manifesting
in terms of “buzz and
the culture again reaching
out to cable in general
and TBS in particular.
I’d be very surprised if
there isn’t huge sampling
in the beginning.”

O’Brien’s inf luence
evidently is also being
gauged in TBS’s collection
of higher ad rates for
spots — in the $30,000 to
$40,000 range — that are
at or almost equivalent to
those found on Leno and
Letterman’s shows. TBS’s
eff orts have yielded such
initial blue-chip supporters
as AT&T, General Motors,
Microsoft and News
Corp., among others.

September