Conan O’Brien’s TBS debut tonight has generated tons of media coverage and will undoubtedly draw a significant number of viewers to the “very funny” network at 11 p.m.
But TBS is also hoping that the audience tuning into its Conan will bring additional viewers to time slot predecessor Lopez Tonight, when that show moves to midnight to make room for O’Brien, according to Michael Wright, executive vice president, head of programming, for TBS, TNT and Turner Classic Movies (TCM).
The George Lopez-hosted show, which launched last November, has experienced a steady ratings decline since averaging 1.6 million viewers during its first week on air. By the first week of June, the show was barely averaging 1 million viewers, and just two weeks ago Lopez Tonight generated a series low 662,000 average weekly viewers.
Wright said the show is doing “okay” from a ratings standpoint, but noted the network is committed to continuing the series. “We’re into shows for the long haul and I’m satisfied with the work that they’re doing to continue to grow and evolve the show,” he said, adding that the show will add more comedy skits and performances to its talk show format.
Wright said the show’s shift to midnight as the lead-out from Conan should generate more sampling of the show and hopefully lead to increased overall viewership. He added Lopez Tonight may have suffered from having four different lead-ins during its run at 11 p.m.
“We look at [the Conan lead-in] as great potential,” he said. “The first year of the show it was coming out of four different lead-ins on four different shows for a start-up that’s hard to do. Right out of the box he’ll get four nights of a very similar lead-in, which will allow them to get the lead in and adjust to it.”
St. Petersburg Times media critic Eric Deggans added that Lopez Tonight’s move to midnight will also keep the show from competing head-to-head with other cable late-night strongholds such as Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.
TV historian Tim Brooks believes the pairing of O’Brien and Lopez builds TBS a late-night block that should hold appeal for cable viewers. “It’s difficult to find one talk show or game show that works during daytime,” he said. “Here, TBS has something to build on with its late-night block.”