The new pact solidifies O’Brien’s status as late night’s longest-running host. O’Brien has been playing with the format in recent years, including several special episodes taped overseas. In announcing the new deal with Turner, O’Brien hinted that the show would continue to evolve in some fashion.
“The TV landscape has changed dramatically since I inherited the traditional talk show format in 1993,” he said in the press release. “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. I also want a pony.”
What does “something leaner” mean? Kevin Reilly, president of TNT & TBS and chief creative officer of Turner Entertainment, told IndieWire that O’Brien hasn’t quite figured that out just yet.
“He hasn’t even revealed what that means,” Reilly said. “Ultimately where a lot of the confusion came from was it really is about dedicating resources and putting time where the growth is for him. Let’s make a real business structure around it. You’ll see a few more things coming sooner rather than later but we’re not there yet. I don’t know what we’re gong to be doing 2022, but we’re doing the nightly show until he or collectively we decide otherwise.”
O’Brien still had two years left on his deal, but Turner was interested in locking the host in to grow the “Conan” brand further into “digital and branded content, podcasting, mobile gaming, pay TV and live tours.” The new deal also expands TBS’s deal with O’Brien’s production company, Conaco, which produces the talk show, plus TBS’s “People of Earth” and the upcoming animated series “Final Space.”
“Conan continues to prove his vibrancy night after night and his incredible command of the digital and social space has only built on his young, connected audience,” Reilly said earlier in the press release. “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.”
The announcement didn’t include any references to the kind of drastic changes to the show that news reports earlier this year suggested were in the offing. Ross told IndieWire in January that he and O’Brien had been brainstorming their long-term plans as the show’s travel episodes began eating up more of their time.
Among the ideas they kicked around at the time: Doing a half-hour show, reducing to two days a week, or weekly. Another idea: Making the show collapsible, so that “Conan” can air in different patterns throughout the year.
“He’s very supportive of what we want to do and figuring it out,” Ross said at the time. “That’s where the conversation was at. We’ve had numerous conversations about it internally. We want to build our digital business more.”
“Conan” has aired on TBS since November 2010, and has earned attention in recent years for its international episodes, Comic-Con shows, and a week of shows at New York’s Apollo Theater.