If you’re a fan of Conan O’Brien’s nightly sketches and interviews over at TBS, brace yourself, because you probably will be seeing Conan a lot less in the near future. According to The Wrap, Turner CEO John Martin recently revealed that a plan is in the works for Conan to switch from a nightly show to a weekly hourlong show, though an exact date for the change has not been announced. Here’s more from The Wrap’s report:
Martin also believes one-hour weekly will just prove better for the show. Samantha Bee does exactly that, by the way, and she’s made some waves of her own since Full Frontal launched on TBS. Part of the reason for the switch, Martin said, is that late night’s just too crowded and competitive. He did point out that O’Brien is holding his own, however.
In addition to all the late night competition, Martin pointed out that O’Brien’s found the most success through his remote specials in recent years. While the new format will undoubtedly give O’Brien and his writers more time to make quality episodes, O’Brien has been a weekday late night mainstay since he started at NBC’s Late Night back in 1993, so the change would be big one. Still, over 23 years is a long time to do a talk show every night, and speaking to The Washington Post last year, O’Brien called all the late night competition “liberating” and seemed excited to mix things up:
The international stuff and focusing more on the remotes has probably resulted in me feeling less pressure to be like: “America needs a Marco Rubio joke tonight, or a Donald Trump joke tonight, and it’s my job to supply it!” I know it seems counterintuitive, but when I began in 1993, there were so few [hosts] that everything was a huge deal. . . . Now you feel like you’re able to focus more purely on: “What is it that I really want to do with this time? What’s important to me?”
UPDATE: TBS president Kevin Reilly addressed Martin’s comments to both The Hollywood Reporter and Variety today, and his responses don’t exactly clear up what’s going on behind the scenes between Conan and the network. In a statement, Reilly said there are currently “no plans to change the format or frequency” of the show, but told THR that there is a “distinct possibility that the show may evolve” over the next few months and O’Brien will “continue to have a daily relationship with an audience.” Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
He came to me a couple of months ago and said let’s talk about how he can balance that with the rigors of a daily talk show. I think it may very well change, but he hasn’t really got his hands around what will be. It’s going to be up to him. I’m not forcing him to do anything. We have a deal with Conan through 2018 and you can anticipate it will be renewed beyond that; we’re going to be in business with him for a long time. Television is going to continue to be a huge part of his presence but you can also anticipate a series of announcements between now and the upfronts [in May] that will shed even more light on what we’re talking about.
Speaking to Variety, Reilly gave an answer that was a little more direct:
“Maybe,” Reilly responded when asked about the possible move, which had been reported earlier Thursday. Noting that the network has several projects in the works with O’Brien, Reilly added, “He has a very full plate in things that we’re going to be going the next step on in the next six months, and that led him to ask me, ‘Well, how do we balance this with the talk show?’” He added, “He’s going to have a show on TBS for many years to come. Right now what form that takes in relation to these other endeavors is in flux. Is going to once a week a possibility? It is. That’s going to come from him when he’s ready to get his hands around that.”
Whatever changes take place at Conan over the next few months, here’s hoping that they happen on O’Brien’s terms.