Conan O’Brien will continue to host late-night for TBS for another four years – but new duties will ensure he frequently gets out from behind his desk.
Under the terms of a new deal, TBS and O’Brien’s Conaco LLC will work to create content for digital venues, podcasting, mobile gaming, pay TV and live tours. The production company produces O’Brien’s “Conan” along with the TBS comedy “People of Earth” and a soon-to-launch animated series, “Final Space.” And O’Brien’s staffers are behind Team Coco, the show’s digital hub as well as efforts by O’Brien’s team to create content for advertisers. The agreement will keep O’Brien behind his “Conan” desk through 2022. Of TV’s many wee-hours hosts, O’Brien is the medium’s longest-serving.
“The TV landscape has changed dramatically since I inherited the traditional talk show format in 1993,” O’Brien said in a statement. “In the past few years I’ve stumbled across many new and exciting ways of connecting with my audience, and I’m eager to evolve my show into something leaner, more agile, and more unpredictable.”
The agreement – the third O’Brien and the Turner cable network have signed since 2013 – puts a spotlight on how quickly late-night TV is evolving at a time when so many of its fans watch the programs in non-traditional fashion. With TV viewers growing ever more fragmented thanks to the rise of streaming video and mobile devices, hosts like O’Brien, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers are devising new methods to snare viewer attention.
These days, the late-night hosts do things Johnny Carson could only devise in a fever dream. Colbert inserts new segments into repeats. Seth Meyers’ “Late Night” makes available the show’s signature segment, “A Closer Look,” on social media hours before a new episode airs. Samantha Bee’s “Full Frontal” staff often posts comedic bits on social-media sites like Twitter and Medium, and recently held a comedy event aimed at celebrating journalists in Washington, D.C., on the same weekend as the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
O’Brien, however, has been testing new ideas since embarking on a comedic tour of Cuba in 2015 that turned into a special. Since that time, the lanky red-headed host has journeyed to Berlin, Qatar, South Korea and Armenia. “The only way you can keep going at a certain point is to change, and to grow up and try different things,” O’Brien remarked at a press event in 2015, and “maybe try a different muscle.”
TBS last extended its deal with O’Brien in 2014, when it signed him to a three-year extension. “This next chapter will provide support for Conan and [executive producer] Jeff [Ross] to expand the boundaries from a ‘talk show’ to a range of personality-based, cross-platform experiences.” said Kevin Reilly president of TNT & TBS and chief creative officer of Turner Entertainment, in a prepared statement.
Rival late-night shows frequently beat “Conan” in linear-TV ratings, but Turner has pointed to the host’s success in attracting young audiences and in getting attention in digital venues. “Conan” debuted in November 2010.