One of the perceived snags of Conan O'Brien going to cable was that he wouldn't get the same kind of big paycheck that he'd gotten on NBC and would likely command from Fox.But as part of his deal with Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting to host a late-night show on TBS, O'Brien will have ownership of the show. That will give him the potential to make a lot more money then if he were just a hired hand hosting a show owned by a network. O'Brien's deal is for five years.A deal between O'Brien's camp and TBS was struck in about 72 hours, according to people involved in the talks.TBS previously had indicated it was not interested in O'Brien, but Turner Entertainment chief Steve Koonin said in an interview that was in part because "we assumed he had a deal with Fox."
With the increase in options--Internet being just part of the reason--O'Brien is counting on creating a show that gets dismal ratings.
Dismal if you only think in terms of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
What it really means, though, is that O'Brien realizes that, to be good, and to be himself, he needs to do a show that people can watch either online or on TBS (I think a good number of people will watch his show without ever tuning in TBS, and this is why this move is a good one), and he needs to do it the way he wants to do it. No network suits, no pressure of dealing with the fact that the current Tonight Show audience merely wants to fold in comfortably and watch Jay Leno confirm what they already know, and that is, mediocrity sells in America. Mediocrity and tepid chuckles are all that will bring in the big shares.
Funny? Funny is a niche thing and Conan O'Brien can do funny, but his slice of the pie is always going to be a small one. Let's hope he can make himself and TBS enough money to do what it is he knows how to do.