×

Conan O’Brien’s TBS Show Will Move to Half-Hour Format in 2019

Conan O’Brien hopes fans will see more of his comedy even as he produces less of his flagship late-night TV show on TBS starting in 2019.

The comedian will move his “Conan,” which has been on TBS since November of 2010, to what he called a “leaner” half-hour format focused more on comedy. As a result, the show will tamp down on some of the usual late-night trappings such as multiple celebrity interviews. O’Brien said the new concept will leave him with more time to develop comedic routines for the TV show, but also to produce more content for a range of comedy-focused ventures he has been building as part of a broader partnership with the Time Warner-owned cable network.

O’Brien, who has worked his way from NBC’s “Late Night” and “Tonight” shows to TBS over the course of 25 years, said he has been looking for new ways to entertain given recent significant shifts in how people consume comedy and TV. “I was looking for something more lean and agile. I’ve been pushing for something that fits the modern landscape, certainly fits the way I interact with my fans more,” he noted during an interview with journalists Thursday. O’Brien has cultivated one of the youngest audiences for a late-night program, but many of his viewers don’t watch his linear broadcast in a way that can be easily monetized.

Many of TV’s late-night teams have begun to focus on content ventures outside their programs, which remain very popular but are also being consumed in ways that Johnny Carson would have never envisioned. When Carson reigned after the late local news, a mass audience all tuned in at the same time to see him. An aficionado of late-night humor in 2018 could pick from an array of streaming-video clips from Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert, all passed along by friends or distributed through social media. And many of the programs have found success in creating everything from animated satires to game shows to social-media posts out of segments that first aired on their flagship programs.

“If there’s a way, a possibility that we can find other ways to spin off something, if I feel like it is worth people’s time and something that people might enjoy, yeah, that’s a possibility,” he said.

The comedian suggested viewers of “Conan” would see some changes, but not radical ones. “This is not, ‘Tune in, you’re going to see a whole new Conan with a shaved head and an eye patch and a falcon on his shoulder,” said O’Brien. He said his new program, which will begin to air in January of 2019, will likely feature just one celebrity guest rather than many, and will remain based in Los Angeles. “This is going to be me doing comedy as you’ve seen me doing,and an interview, probably, with a celebrity every night instead of two or three. Everything else beyond that we’re going to find it by doing it.”

Under the terms of a deal unveiled in 2017, TBS and O’Brien’s Conaco LLC were supposed to create more content for non-traditional venues: digital media, podcasts, mobile games, pay TV and live tours. O’Brien and TBS are also partners in other projects,such as the TBS comedy “People of Earth” and the animated series, “Final Space.” O’Brien’s production team also creates content for advertisers.

He will also unveil a website that lets fans see all of the programs he’s led over the years. Thanks to a licensing deal, he will be able to stream episodes of his time hosting NBC’s “Late Night.” O’Brien said he would love to be able to stream broadcasts of his seven-month stint on NBC’s “Tonight Show,” a famous time in the annals of TV history owing to the network’s decision to reinstate the host he replaced, Jay Leno, back in its 11:30 time slot. “My hope is we will get it,” he said.

Of TV’s many wee-hours hosts, O’Brien is presently the medium’s longest-serving. He first came to broader renown as the host of NBC’s “Late Night,” which he inherited from David Letterman on September 13, 1993. He had been a comedy writer for shows like “The Simpsons” and “Saturday Night Live,” before Lorne Michaels put him forward as a potential candidate for host.

In recent years, O’Brien has placed new emphasis on a series of specials that have him traveling to different countries, like Cuba or Armenia. And he’s acknowledged an interest in trying new things. “I still love the form,” he said of late-night shows in remarks made in 2015, “but in a world where there are more and more and more and more shows, there actually is an impetus to — all right, I want to keep changing,” he said. “I want to do something radically different than I would have done 10 years ago.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Hugh Laurie

    Hugh Laurie to Star in New BBC Thriller 'Roadkill' by David Hare

    Hugh Laurie, the Golden Globe-winning star of “House” and “The Night Manager,” will play a beleaguered politician in a new four-part thriller for the BBC, “Roadkill,” from acclaimed playwright and screenwriter David Hare. The series is being produced by The Forge (“Collateral”). Laurie stars as Peter Laurence, a charismatic Conservative Party government minister who remains [...]

  • Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth WarrenSecond 2020

    ABC News Sets Moderators, Rules for Third Democratic Debate

    ABC News has announced the moderators for the third Democratic debate, as well as the qualification rules. The debate will be held on Thursday, Sept. 12, and will spill over to Friday, Sept. 13 if more than 10 candidates qualify. The moderating team will consist of chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, “World News Tonight” anchor and [...]

  • James Corden Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke

    James Corden Got a Little Help From Paul McCartney on His Drive to the Emmys

    Saying “Baby, I could drive your car” has proven to be a very good strategy for James Corden — never more so than when he put Paul McCartney into the highly sought passenger seat. The primetime special “Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney, Live From Liverpool” is a contender in five Emmy categories this year, [...]

  • Starz Logo

    Starz Orders Horror Comedy Pilot 'Shining Vale'

    Starz has put out a pilot order for “Shining Vale,” a horror comedy which hails from “Divorce” creator Sharon Horgan and “Trial & Error” co-creator Jeff Astrof. The prospective series is about a dysfunctional family that moves from the city to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place. But no one [...]

  • Bethenny Frankel at the showtime Emmy

    Bethenny Frankel to Exit 'Real Housewives of New York' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bethenny Frankel is stepping away from the “Real Housewives” franchise. Variety has learned exclusively that Frankel is poised to exit Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York” ahead of its upcoming twelfth season. Frankel first joined the acclaimed reality series back when it premiered back in 2008 before exiting the series in 2010 during the [...]

  • Dolly Parton

    BBC Commissions Dolly Parton Feature Documentary

    The BBC has commissioned a feature length documentary about country music legend Dolly Parton, it announced Wednesday. The documentary, tentatively titled “Dolly’s Country” will air on BBC Two this fall as part of a season of programs dedicated to country music. The broadcaster announced earlier in the day that it had acquired Ken Burns’ upcoming [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content