:: One final Conan O’Brien thumbsucker for ya: MICHAEL SCHNEIDER writes about what the recent defection of broadcast stalwarts Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart and Conan O’Brien might mean:
Turner, in particular, has been arguing for years that cablers deserve broadcast-sized ad rates. Media buyers have been slow to agree.
But this year, the cable conglom has snagged a broadcast-sized superstar to deliver its pitch: Conan O’Brien.
O’Brien last week became the latest broadcast network figure to jump to cable, signing on to host a nightly 11 o’clock talkshow for TBS.
“He becomes a key face for TBS,” says Turner Entertainment Networks prexy Steve Koonin. “This is unique and transformational for us.”
And, perhaps, for all of cable. When O’Brien steps onto Turner’s upfront stage at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom on May 19, the message will be made loud and clear to advertisers: The difference between broadcast and cable just got even smaller.
:: OK, we take it back: THIS is the last Conan-related piece you should read. BRIAN LOWRY columnizes that maybe, rather than a “Jay vs. Dave” or “Conan vs. Jay” face off, the truth of the matter is that late night doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game:
The less simplistic truth is that O’Brien’s audience and Leno’s can happily coexist. Based on audience profile and scheduling, O’Brien is actually more likely to compete with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central, or TBS’ sister Cartoon Network and its raunchy Adult Swim animation block. And they’ll probably be just fine, too.
So who will O’Brien hurt? That’s an antiquated way of looking at things — reflecting a desire to reduce news stories to black-and-white snapshots and programming decisions to some kind of direct, easy-to-digest confrontation. After all, that’s how it was when we could speculate about who would win when Fox placed “The Simpsons” opposite “The Cosby Show,” or “Frasier” went up against “Home Improvement.” Back then, each seismic scheduling shift was the next installment of Ali vs. Frazier — a kind of Thrilla in Sitcomvilla.
:: She’s one of Fox News Channel’s rising stars. CYNTHIA LITTLETON introduces us to Megyn Kelly:
Kelly is clearly getting a big push from Fox News as a next-generation star in the Shepard Smith mold — an anchor with news cred who is less encumbered by the partisan tilt of other Fox News personalities. She can be breathless and intense at times, but her background as a corporate lawyer adds a level of gravitas to her questioning and reasoning.
:: Fresh back from the MIP TV convention, STEVE CLARKE and JOHN HOPEWELL tell us that it was epic. Literally. Epics were all the rage at the Cannes confab, they write:
The two trends — the big, bold epics and the surge in formats biz — are the flipsides of the same post-recession coin.
Broadcasters are saving money with the formats but anchoring their skeds with the glossy epics to justify advertisers’ investment.
Although some company honchos, including CBS Studios Intl. prexy Armando Nunez, say business never went away in 2009, others believe the solid biz at Mip TV repped evidence of a partial rebound.
All that, and a lot more, in the APRIL 18 edition of WEEKLY VARIETY. On newsstands now; at your front doorstep; or waiting for you in the office. Or hell, just go to our top-secret Weekly Variety website here.