Remember yesterday when you, the loyal Vulture commenters, took us to task for saying that Fox affiliates wouldn’t exactly be doing cartwheels if they had to give up their nightly 11 p.m. syndication block in favor of some sort of Conan-helmed gabfest? Well, as it turns out, that is exactly the case! (Though no one dared utter the words MADtv.) According to a report in today’s Broadcasting & Cable, Fox affiliates have been crunching the numbers and stand to “lose millions” if they are forced to give back this hour to the parent company, and that affiliate stations “fall somewhere between lukewarm and intrigued about the notion of O’Brien shifting to their late night air.”
You see, their lack of enthusiasm stems from the fact that affiliates would have to give back a lot of the commercial time — some say as high as ten minutes worth — that they normally run during that hour to the parent company, inventory that is not only a big revenue generator for them, but also very profitable air time. Making matters worse, one Fox affiliate that B&C spoke to had to go and dredge up the dreaded name of Chevy Chase, who network brass also promised would also be super successful back when his show premiered in 1993. “They thought there might be some flow there, but it just didn’t happen,” says the affiliate. “It’s like drilling for oil — you just don’t know what you’re going to get.” In other words (and to keep the oil analogy going to its logical conclusion), it seems as if the affiliates have serious doubts as to whether Conan will be able to drink Jay Leno’s milkshake.