TBS is exploring new formats for Conan O’Brien and his late-night talk show Conan. Turner CEO John Martin told The Wrap at CES last night that the nightly show has taken a beating in the ratings as it competes with series like The Daily Show, but a weekly offering could help it stand out.
That quote was later clarified in an interview with TBS President Kevin Reilly by The Hollywood Reporter. Reilly explains the company has no current plans to change the show from daily to weekly, but that it’s exploring additional partnerships with the comedian. For example, the studio will soon begin production on a standalone series based on Conan’s Clueless Gamer skit.
Conan, which first premiered on TBS back in 2010 after O’Brien’s brief stint hosting The Tonight Show, has become a staple in late-night, though never a leader in the ratings. By the end of December, Conan had some of the lowest ratings in late night, well behind The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
However, the show has performed much better in its “on-the-road” specials, which have taken O’Brien to places like Cuba and South Korea. Martin believes that late-night has gotten too crowded, but that a weekly, more creative show will fare better. That formula has proven successful for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, which repeatedly edged out The Daily Show in the ratings during election season and earned an Emmy nomination.
It’s likely this expanded focus will be a boon for Conan’s online presence. Segments like Clueless Gamer typically pull in millions of viewers on YouTube, and the host also recently experimented with VR for his fans. “He has been doing a lot of different things in the last year,” Reilly told The Hollywood Reporter. “These videos he's been doing have gone to 20 million to 30 million-plus and have gone viral. He's done branded advertising that has also had the same kind of virality.”
In the end, it’s possible a focus on web video will be a blessing in disguise for Conan, especially as audiences move further away from appointment viewing. We’ve reached out to TBS for further comment.
Update January 5th, 6:30PM ET: The story has been updated with a new report from The Hollywood Reporter that says Conan will stay daily, but TBS plans to expand their partnership with the comedian to other formats. The original reporting from The Wrap erroneously claimed Conan would move to a weekly format.