Comedy net nabs ‘Conan’ reruns

Cabler to play each episode the next day

Comedy Central has made it official, picking up reruns of “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” from NBC Enterprises for a license fee of about $150,000 a week starting Sept. 3.

Scott Sassa, president of NBC West Coast, said he’s convinced that the repeats of “Late Night” won’t cannibalize the NBC telecast weeknights at 12:35 a.m. because Comedy Central will play each episode the next day at 7 p.m., at a time when there will likely be a completely different audience for the series.

Mining new viewers

“We’re offering a service to viewers who like Conan but can’t stay up late to watch him,” said Kathryn Mitchell, senior VP of programming for Comedy Central. Mitchell added that O’Brien’s show delivers a high percentage of young males, which are exactly the viewers Comedy Central targets with most of its programming.

Sassa said he’s generally against the concept of what the industry calls “repurposing.” But he has made exceptions for “Late Night” and — as part of an earlier deal with E! Entertainment TV — “Later With Carson Daly” because both shows run so late at night that they’re limited in the number of viewers they can attract. Any viewers the two shows pick up early in the evening will be gravy, in Sassa’s analysis.

Ed Wilson, president of NBC Enterprises, said, “There’ll be very little duplication in viewership” between the NBC telecast of “Late Night” and the Comedy Central cablecast.

The one other previous experiment with nightly reruns of “Late Night” took place from December 1996 to May 1997 when NBC placed the repeats on its sister network CNBC at 10 p.m. The repeats never put a dent in the Nielsens on CBNC because it was the wrong network: CNBC’s demographics as a rule skewed older than the “Late Night” audience.

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