As long expected, Conan O’Brien is changing things up at Turner. The talk show host’s “Conan” will move to a new nightly 30-minute format in 2019, which TBS said would be a “less structured” format that will have guests and a variety of segments drawn from the Team Coco portfolio.
Turner and O’Brien on Thursday morning announced an “expanded partnership spanning television, digital, social and live events that will enable the late night icon to capitalize and interact with his multi-generational fan base across platforms.” That includes the decision to revamp “Conan,” which will still air four nights a week. It has aired as an hour since launching on TBS in 2010.
“Since I inherited my Late Night show in 1993, TV has changed exponentially,” O’Brien said in a statement. “I’d like to think I have evolved with many of these changes, but now it’s time to take the next leap. A half-hour show will give me the time to do a higher percentage of the comedy in, and out, of the studio that I love and that seems to resonate in this new digital world. It’s still going to be me hosting a very silly show, but I want segments on my half-hour program to link to digital content, deepening the experience for my younger fans, and confusing my older ones.”
As part of the arrangement, Team Coco will sign talent deals with stand-up comedians, focused on live touring and original digital material. O’Brien will host a multi-city comedy tour in late 2018 featuring some of his comedians.
The decision to give “Conan” a makeover has been part of a long-term plan at the company. O’Brien last year signed a four-year deal with Turner and TBS to keep his nightly talk show “Conan” on the air through the year 2022 — but even then he hinted that the show would undergo a makeover.
The change appears to capitalize the format that has generated the most attention for O’Brien in recent years: His treks out of the studio to locations around the globe. The “Conan Without Borders” feature has hit eight international locations in the last few years, including Italy, Israel, Mexico and more. He was the first American late-night host to shoot in Cuba in more than 50 years, and also the first American late-night host to broadcast from Armenia and South Korea.
O’Brien’s other trips include joining former First Lady Michelle Obama at the international Air Force Base in Doha, Qatar. He has also hosted from San Diego Comic-Con International and domestically special events from New York, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta. “Conan Without Borders” will continue to produce hour-long specials under the new structure.
Last year’s deal had already locked the host in to grow the “Conan” brand further into “digital and branded content, podcasting, mobile gaming, pay TV and live tours,” so this is the first major announcement to come out of that new arrangement. That deal also expanded TBS’s arrangement with O’Brien’s production company, Conaco, which produces the talk show, plus TBS’s “People of Earth” and animated series “Final Space.”
“Conan’s always been a fearless performer and now, at the top of his form, I’m excited he’s taking a gutsy step forward with us into new arenas,” said Kevin Reilly, president of TBS and TNT and chief creative officer of Turner Entertainment.
Turner pointed to O’Brien’s multi-platform franchise “Clueless Gamer” as a model for Team Coco’s work in branded entertainment.
Billy Parks, most recently executive vice president of creative and content strategy at Otter Media, has joined Team Coco to oversee these new initiatives as chief brand officer, and will working closely with “Conan” executive producer Jeff Ross.
Additionally, Team Coco plans to make O’Brien’s entire catalogue from NBC’s “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and TBS’ “Conan” available digitally.
“Starting out on Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons, through ‘Late Night’ and my work with TBS, one of the great joys of my life has been collaborating with brilliantly funny people. This new venture with TBS will give me a platform to nurture exciting young talent and find the right place for their gifts in a crowded and chaotic landscape,” O’Brien added. “My goal is to be ‘Red Lobster,’ only instead of affordable seafood we make comedy, and every customer gets a bib. I wish I had thought this through.”