By most accounts, Conan O’Brien made a very good deal at TBS. But on Deal Or No Deal, a contestant who takes the banker’s offer gets to open the suitcase on the table to see if he indeed made a good deal. O’Brien never got to see what was in Fox’s suitcase waiting for him at the meeting that were to be held today but was thwarted by the Monday announcement of the comedian’s deal with TBS for a new late-night talk show.
Here’s a peek at what was inside. Sources said that in addition to a nightly talk show on FX, the proposal included O’Brien hosting the Emmys every time the awards show airs on Fox as well as primetime specials on the broadcast network and a show on Super Bowl Sunday when the football event is on Fox.
This marks the second time in six years that O’Brien jilted Fox after flirting with the idea of launching a late-night show there. But the circumstances are far different. Back in 2004, Fox had been planning its play for the “Late Night” host, whose contract with NBC was coming up, for a long time and had laid the groundwork, getting the 11 p.m. time slot cleared and everyone on board with the idea.
This time around, because O’Brien’s availability was so sudden and unexpected, Fox didn’t have its ducks in a row to attempt another late-night show launch. There were three major obstacles that the company and its affiliates couldn’t overcome:
- The financial impact from stations having to break the long-term off-network contracts for the comedy series airing from 11 PM-midnight, which was estimated to be “many millions of dollars.”
- The potential effect on the landscape in late fringe that would’ve left the Tribune stations with a monopoly on running off-network comedies in the 11 PM hour.
- The losses News Corp.’s syndication division Twentieth Television would’ve incurred by not having an hour of prime station real estate on Fox stations available for its series.
While there was a strong creative support for an O’Brien-hosted talk show at Fox, there was less enthusiasm on the financial side. The network searched for people within the Fox station groups to champion the plan but couldn’t find any as station owners felt O’Brien’s appeal might be too narrow for a major broadcast network. Ultimately, a deal didn’t make sense for either side: Fox couldn’t make the numbers work and O’Brien couldn’t get what he wanted – a nightly talk show that he owns and that airs in pattern around the country.
So, following the Monday’s announcement of O’Brien’s TBS deal, the Fox affiliates largely ignored the topic at their meeting with Fox brass Tuesday at NAB. After touching upon the subject for about two minutes, the two sides proceeded with discussing the network’s fall sports schedule, spectrum and retransmission consent fee issues (Fox has been pressing its affiliates to share the retransmission fees they are getting from cable and satellite providers) as well as the Mobile TV venture announced the same day at NAB. The venture, called Pearl Mobile DTV Company, includes 12 TV station groups, Belo, Cox, Fox, Gannett, Scripps, Hearst, ION, Media General, Meredith Corp., NBC, Post-Newsweek and Raycom, joining forces to provide content and spectrum for a national mobile DTV service.