Conan O’Brien exists late night TV run after 28 years
By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links
Conan O’Brien appeared on the final episode of his TBS late night talk show “Conan” Thursday, June 24, 2021.
“Conan” launched in November 2010 as a one hour show.
In 2001, O’Brien and his team negotiated a new contract that reportedly guaranteed he would become the next host of “The Tonight Show.”
This reportedly was not revealed to Jay Leno, then the host of “Tonight,” until 2004, when NBC informed Leno that his run would end in 2009.
NBC followed through with that promise — but with a twist. Not wanting to lose Leno to another network, NBC signed a new deal with him to host a primetime 10 p.m. eastern show, called “The Jay Leno Show,” right before local late news.
“Leno” debuted in September 2009 and O’Brien took over “Tonight” that fall as well.
Ratings immediately began to slide for both shows and NBC affiliates began complaining that “Leno” was hurting their late local newscasts, which often rely heavily on convincing viewers of the show immediately proceeding them to stick around.
NBC proposed a solution — it would cut back “Leno” to 30 minutes and move it to 11:35 p.m., his old timeslot. “Tonight” would then move to 12:05 a.m., something that O’Brien’s camp expressed concern over.
Many viewers supported O’Brien who saw the move as essentially a demotion by NBC since Leno would be appearing at the same time he used to (albeit in a shorter block).
The result was a public relations fiasco for NBC and eventually lead to the network paying O’Brien a reported $45 million to end his contract and reinstated Leno as host of “Tonight.”
O’Brien would then begin a hiatus from TV, though he did appear in a comedy tour and would eventually announce a deal with TBS to launch his own late night talker there. The show launched in 2010.
In 2018, O’Brien did another comedy tour and the show went on hiatus, returning in a 30 minute format.
O’Brien has signed a deal to remain within the WarnerMedia empire and will host a weekly variety show on the company’s streaming platform, HBO Max.