His new show, which will start at 11 p.m., will give him a half hour head start over his rivals that start at 11:30 p.m. after network’s evening news. George Lopez, the current late night host on TBS, has happily agreed to be pushed back to the midnight hour time-slot to allow for Conan's new show.
"I can’t think of anything better than doing my show with Conan as my lead-in. It’s the beginning of a new era in late-night comedy,” Lopez said in a statement.
The news of O’Brien’s move to basic cable came as a surprise. Industry watchers predicted that he would end up on Fox, the only major broadcast network without a late-night show.
O’Brien’s departure from long-time employer NBC played out embarrassingly in public, as NBC execs tried to reverse the mistake of moving Jay Leno to a prime-time slot and giving O’Brien his long coveted post on the Tonight Show. When NBC reversed its decision, O’Brien was dismissed from the role with a multi-million dollar separation package.
As part of the settlement, O’Brien was barred from doing comedy on television until this coming fall. He then opened up a Twitter account to talk directly to his fans that overwhelmingly rallied to his support during the ordeal with NBC. The news of O’Brien’s deal with TBS broke yesterday, the same day that he kicked off a nationwide live act entitled The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour. It started in Eugene, Oregon, and will play New York’s Radio City Music Hall and the Bonnarroo Music Festival.
"In three months I've gone from network television, to Twitter, to performing live in theaters, and now I'm headed to basic cable. My plan is working perfectly," O’Brien said Monday in a statement that accompanied TBS's announcement.
He also joked in a post on Twitter, "The good news: I will be doing a show on TBS starting in November! The bad news: I'll be playing Rudy on the all new Cosby Show.”
The move is another sign of diversification of the television entertainment field. Once dominated by three major networks that appealed to a wide audience, programming options continue to expand to basic and premium cable networks that offer more targeted fare to specified demographics.
Steve Koonin, the president of TBS said: “For decades, late-night TV has been dominated by broadcast television. Now with a young audience and a growing late-night lineup, TBS is set to be the choice of comedy fans for years to come.”
Koonin went on to say, "Conan has been the comedic voice for a generation. TBS already has a huge audience of young comedy lovers, and Conan's show will give these fans even more reasons to watch our network."
The late night field now becomes more crowded, with O’Brien facing off against options on CBS, NBC, ABC, and Comedy Central’s late night line-up of John Stewart and Stephen Colbert.