Conan O’Brien’s flirtation with the Xbox 360

When Conan O’Brien and NBC parted ways in early 2010, the talk show host had a lot of suitors. Most were the usual suspects – Fox, Comedy Central, HBO… but when word leaked out that Microsoft was interested, it caught a few people off guard. Conan-o-brien-tbs

Reports at the time said the company was considering launching its own programming channel for the Xbox 360 – and was interested in lassoing O’Brien as the tentpole. Neither party ever talked about the discussions publicly – or even confirmed them – but last month at CES, Jeff Ross, executive producer of “Conan” finally gave some details during the “Hollywood Creative Masters” Super Session.

(Apologies for taking this long to get the story up – it’s hard to take notes when you moderate the panel, which I did in this case. Afterward, it took me a while to chase down a recording of the event.)

Ross said that while the offer was interesting, there were a couple of things working against it. Primarily, the ideas weren’t concrete enough – or something that would immediately result in work. And ultimately, when television offers began to roll in, Conan & crew decided that was the industry in which they wanted to remain.

“The Xbox thing – a lot of the conversations were ‘well, it’s a show, but it’s not a show and there are no breaks, but maybe there are breaks and it’s not 60 minutes, it’s this…’ and nobody really knew what it was,” he said. “So it was really going to be a leap of faith to jump in with these guys and figure something out which we didn’t know. Plus there were 100 people who were out of jobs and that didn’t bode well for that.”

Ultimately, though, Ross thinks Microsoft might become an interesting part of the content landscape, saying the stuff they were developing was “mind blowing.”

“I think it’s coming and it’s big,” he said. “It’s just that we weren’t in a position at that point to figure out what it was.”

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