Conan O’Brien’s Move to Fox Hinges on Affiliate Approval

     April 11, 2010


Ever since Conan O’Brien’s very public departure from NBC, industry analysts have assumed that the comic would find a new home at Fox. After all, it was because of Fox’s previous courtship of O’Brien that NBC guaranteed him the right to host the Tonight Show, a move that in hindsight may not have been the best decision. Though O’Brien and Fox are close to completing a deal, the affiliates have not yet approved the move. O’Brien has stipulated that Fox must air his new show in all or nearly all markets. Affiliates, who would be stuck with the syndication costs ofits current programming as well as a higher retransmission fee, are less than enthusiastic about the proposal. Fox wants the affiliates to sign off on a new late-night show before May 17th when it is scheduled to deliver its upfront presentation to advertisers. For more on the negotiations between O’Brien and Fox hit the jump.

Part of the reason for the affiliates to hesitate saying “I’m With Coco” is because O’Brien’s new show would air at 11:00PM, which would give him a half-hour headstart on Jay Leno and David Letterman at the expense of a prime syndication time-slot. Aside from affiliate concerns, another issue in the negotiations is ownership of the show. O’Brien wants to own his show in the manner that Letterman’s Worldwide Pants owns “Late Show.” Fox, however, would prefer to retain ownership and instead wants to keep O’Brien just as an employee, a la Leno’s relationship with NBC.

According to The Live Feed, O’Brien has already made several concessions, notably cutting his salary and the show’s overall production cost. While at NBC, his show cost $90 million a year to produce, a figure that is expected to tumble down to $60 million at Fox.

Both sides want this to happen and the prevailing sense is that the affiliates are all that stand in the way of bringing O’Brien to Fox for late-night in 2010. More on this story as it develops.

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