Monday, April 12, 2010

Conan: How TBS snagged him

Here's a must-read for anyone interested in the business of late night TV: TV MoJoe's interview with Turner Entertainment Networks prez Steve Koonin on how TBS landed Conan O'Brien.

It's a lucrative deal for the comedian, but Koonin believes that Coco's presence on the network will raise its profile with comedians (TBS's tag line is "Very Funny"). "At TNT, we've been so successful with Ray Romano, Kyra Sedgwick, Holly Hunter, Jada Pinkett Smith -- just bringing in very talented people," said Koonin. "And we have the same recipe for TBS. Conan is a giant step up in the comedy community for any network... Between Conan and George [Lopez, TBS] will have over 300 hours of comedy on our air. We look at this in long-term increments. And we think having Conan and George will attract more top-tier comics to our network. That's the plan, that's the play... I think we've shown the community today we have a real big appetite."

Of course, demographics played an important role; Koonin stated that Coco's new show will be targeted toward ages 25-45, or people too old for Adult Swim but younger than the graying network audiences. "The guys on CBS and NBC are getting older, and their audience is getting almost as old. We saw that we could have two guys in their 40s attract viewers in their 20s and 30s who will hopefully be on TBS for a long, long time."

Koonin pointed out that the median age of Lopez's viewers is a youthful 33. Compare that to the numbers in an article that appeared in today's New York Times: Jay Leno "now has a median age of 56, with [David] Letterman at 54, 'Nightline' at 55, [Craig] Ferguson and [Jimmy] Kimmel both at 52, and even NBC's younger act, Jimmy Fallon, at 50, [Jon] Stewart comes in with a median age of 49 and [Stephen] Colbert younger still at 37."

(The article was published before the news about Coco's move to TBS broke, but the following quote seems downright prophetic: Syracuse University's Robert Thompson told the Times "that NBC might be more concerned about the trend among the youngest core of viewers, who made up the base for Mr. O'Brien. They seem to be drifting away, toward comedy they find more relevant, he said. 'The hip young comedy stuff has all gone to cable.'")

Why will the new Conan show debut in November, not September? "We've got the American League Championship Series. It's a phenomenal promotional platform." By the time the program debuts, there's not a man, woman or child alive today who will not be aware that Conan's got a new home on TBS.


  1. Robert Marino said...

    The New York Times article referenced has added the following postscript:

    "This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

    "Correction: April 13, 2010

    "An article on Monday about the demographics of the audience for “The Tonight Show” on NBC after Jay Leno’s return misstated the median age of Jon Stewart’s audience on the Comedy Central channel. It is 40, not 49."