Fox suits on nabbing Conan O'Brien: 'We are not free to talk'

Despite intense speculation that Fox could steal Conan O’Brien away from NBC now that Jay Leno is bumping him at 11:30 p.m., the Fox executives didn’t have any breathless announcements to make today regarding their future late-night plans. “Our position has been consistent all along,” Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly told the nation’s TV critics in Pasadena, CA. “We do have the desire to do (late night) five nights a week. I love Conan personally and professionally but right now he has a decision to make about his future, so there are no conversations to be had. We talked to his people. We’ve had informal conversations. Beyond that, we are not free to talk about any other business proposition and we haven’t.”

Fox insiders have confirmed that the network’s affiliates are open to a late-night show at 11 p.m., especially if it involved the caliber of an O’Brien or even a Jay Leno. Reilly reminded the press that many stations already have contracts in place for syndicated programming. “That becomes a very sensitive business discussion in a market-to-market basis,” he said. “If you have a top piece of talent, it makes it a conversation to have.”

Meanwhile, insiders familiar with the negotiations said it may be 10 days or more before anyone knows whether O’Brien will agree to follow Leno’s half-hour show at midnight on NBC. NBC Chairman Jeff Gaspin told the press on Sunday that it’s not a done deal that The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien will air at 12:05 a.m. after the Olympics. “The talks are ongoing,” he said. “[But] I hope and expect, before the Olympics begin, we will have everything set. I can’t imagine we won’t.”

In other news, Reilly said it was his intention to move ahead with the planned Our Little Genius quiz show despite an on-set snafu that prompted executive producer Mark Burnett to throw out the first two episodes. Network insiders say an” inadvertent” mistake was made in the way some of the child contestants were prepped for the competition. Burnett noticed what happened, immediately called Fox, and offered to pay for a reshoot himself, insiders say. A Fox spokeswoman stressed that at no time were the children given the answers.

“Our intention is to do the show,” says Reilly.

Photo Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC

Comments (99 total) Add your comment
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  • Vivi

    I love Conan O’ Brien. That is all.

    • Mary Q. Contrary

      Agreed. I would love to see him move to Fox. I can imagine him getting lots of viewers who would rather go to bed earlier tuning in. Not to mention the way he’s being treated by NBC is abhorrent. I hope they get everything they deserve concerning this heaping pile of shit they’ve made.

      • Stephanie Tanner

        Have Conan as the Tonight guy and Spike Ferensten as the Late Night guy

      • Alexander Stark

        Fox would be a great place for Conan. They focus on his target demographics AND they have strong well established lead-ins

    • Amy

      They pulled a nasty trick on him and I hope he tells ’em to cram it! I feel extra badly for Jimmy.

      • JosieG

        Poor Conan. He gets the chance of a lifetime, but it means he has to move his whole family and crew across the country. Then they take it all away. How many of them bought new houses or signed leases? Will Conan stay in CA or move back east?

    • junierizzle

      I agree, I love Conan. I was stoked to see him take over the tonight show. Now we didn’t have to wait til 12:35 to see him. It was awesome watching Conan before bed. whatever happens Im going with Conan, 12:05 or Fox.
      In my opinion, I think he is gonna walk. He can’t risk NBC giving Leno back his full hour and eventually pushing Conan back to 12:35.

    • leno fan

      Conan would do better over at Fox, should have gone there 6 years ago when they first offered.

  • graeme

    I love Conan too, but he should stick at NBC despite how s****y they have treated him. He’s not going to succeed at second-rate FOX. He would be up against Leno and Letterman.

    • Rich

      Second-rate FOX?! FOX has been kicking NBC all over the Nielsens for years now. “Simpsons,” “House,” “24,” “American Idol,” the NFL, Major League Baseball and NASCAR are not the properties of a “second rate” network.

    • Mary Q. Contrary

      Not to mention that he’ll be on earlier than Leno and Letterman. It will be a good opportunity for those who have been sticking with those two to see how funny Conan really is.

      • ray

        when was conan ever funny?

      • leno fan

        good point Ray

      • matt

        Conan has always been funny. Far funnier than that bobble-headed chin weirdo that is the definition of “safe” comedy.

    • Lizabeth

      I agree with Rich, but I do think it would be tough for him to go up against both Letterman and Leno. At least for a while. But, as someone said on another post, FOX tends to attract a younger audience and their shows would be a good lead in for Conan’s humor. All I know is that I am following Conan wherever he may go. He is by far my favorite!

      • hc

        I concur. But really if he went to Fox the best, and most vindicating moment, would come when Leno actually retired and Jimmy Fallon got the tonight show. I can understand how Conan can be inaccessible for some people and Leno is more mainstream (which is fine), but I think people either really like Fallon or can’t stand him and I don’t see him competing well again Conan or Ferguson. So EAT THAT NBC….in like 10 yrs.

  • bunker

    I think it would be great if he went to Fox. If that happens they should move Wanda Sykes’ show from Saturdays to after Conan five nights a week. That would be an awesome late-nite lineup.

    • i’m a lady

      the problem is there are so many talk shows right now. but conan needs to leave now or else he is seen as nbc’s whipping boy, and he deserves better.

      • Mary Q. Contrary


      • Alexander Stark

        but both Conan and Wanda, and i enjoy them both, target younger audiences just like fox… plus Conan is currently betting Letterman(another NBC castoff)

      • Alexander Stark

        *beating…. i need to proofread

    • Shelly

      I hope Conan DOES move to FOX. But, please, Wanda Sykes is NOT a good decision for a replacement. Take Conan off AND Jimmy Fallon, then have Leno where he should have always been…at 11:30. Then put Bonnie Hunt after Leno. She has done a GREAT job in her daytime talk show and for some stupid reason NBC is canceling her show. She is funny, has great timing and is great with her guests. She should go to late night and then NBC might actually get something right for a change!!

      • Jon-Jon

        I agree that Wanda Sykes would be a terrible replacement. Before I get jumped on by her fans, I happen to like Wanda very much. Her standup is hilarious; sadly, her new show is not. If her weekly show isn’t cutting it, a daily one certainly isn’t going to be better.

      • .,..

        Bonnie is a good actress but her talk show was horrid and no one watched, hence it being cancelled.

      • Amy

        Yuck to Wanda! Nails on a chalkboard! Just ask Bill Cosby :)

      • p diddy

        No way. I know what’s going to happen: O’Brien will move to Fox at 11pm, Jay gets Tonight Show Back, Fallon stays at 12:34 until Jay retires and then Fallon ends up host of Tonight Show.

  • Bill Stevens

    Not true grame, he would not be up against Leno and Letterman, he would get the jump on them by airing at 11pm, 30 minutes before Jay and Dave. After the way NBC treated him, he should jump

    • Sarah

      He may actually be able to get on as early as 10:30pm.

      • Mary Q. Contrary

        No he couldn’t. There are FOX stations all over the country that broadcast an hour-long newscast at 10 pm.

      • Al

        The Saturday shows on Fox always start at 11, giving an hour break between prime-time and late night. I imagine it would be the same for weekdays. I doubt the affiliates would want to give up an extra half-hour at 10:30.

  • George

    Could Conan and his staff who all just moved from NY stay where they are? Could Conan book all those big-ratings-getting Hollywood guests, before the other shows? Could he get the comedic drop on Leno by going 1/2 hour earlier rather than the other way around? Could he have more creative freedom at Fox? IT….COULD….WORK!

    • mcase


  • Steve

    My 2 cents
    There may be a huge audience for people who would watch Conan at 11PM………I don’t watch now because 11:30 – 12:30 is too late and I need sleep…..but I would watch 11:00-12:00…I know it’s only a half hour but my lights go off at 11:30 in my house

  • Tom

    You’ve got to be kidding me..

    Potatoes O’Brien gives me hives.
    I can hardly stand to look at his freakish mug, let alone watch him mince and grimace and cajol…errrg! He’s a funny writer though. Go Gonad..I mean Conan..go AWAY!


      They really shouldn’t let Conan’s fake TV dad leave postings on here.

  • Ambient Lite

    Would LOVE to have Conan on Fox from 11-12, perfect slap-stick free bridge from primetime to Kimmel. Perfect.
    I hope Fox’s red-headed stepchild news branch paid Sarah Palin in snowblowers and Moose Jelly so they can afford Conan!

    • Alexander Stark

      They wouldn’t need to have. fox is doing much better then NBC… Coco may even get a RAISE!

  • rerun

    All for a Fox move. That would be 10 PM MST and i could watch him then. Also, Conan’s show would work better with the Fox audience.

  • bergen

    what nbc did to conan was a really effed up thing to do, but i truly hope he decides to stick with the tonight show. i love conan and i think he has what the younger generation is looking for in terms of humor. jay leno had some great years but for the most part, its the younger generation that stays up later and watches these shows and leno’s just not cutting it anymore. i think leno is becoming really boring and conan o’brien is anything but boring. i think he’s amazing and would really hate for him to pack up and leave nbc. btw, why aren’t they kicking carson daly to the curb?!? he’s the biggest tool on tv.

    • Sara

      LOL @ Carson Daly.

  • Monty

    I agree that it would be a great move to Fox. They get better rating than NBC on most nights, and have an edgier brand of comedy, which would make it more like his show before he moved to the Tonight Show.

    Wouldnt it be amazing if he flipped networks and then had the best ratings between Conan and Letterman?

    • Monty

      Woops, meant Leno and Letterman

      • Alexander Stark

        my guess is that it would be Conan, Letterman,Leno

  • Casey

    Regardless of what Conan does, NBC has treated him like crap. Leno got terrible ratings with his new show and actually pushed away viewers from NBC for Conan’s show, and now Leno gets to push him back a half hour? Come on.

    • Amy

      Agreed. I’ve lost respect for Leno. He’s the one that needs to walk.

    • leno fan

      Ahh, sorry, but your facts are wrong. Conan has lost viewership. He is only 2.3 mil viewers and Leno when he was with TTS was 5.6 and is currently 5.3. Conan down, Leno the same and Lettermen is up. Why? Because Conan is not funny.

      • Rye

        Conan didn’t start losing viewers till Jay’s show started up and split the Tonight Show crowd between the two shows. It’s no coincidence that the first week Letterman beat Conan in the ratings was the first week of Jay’s new show.

      • Jorge

        I think both Conan and Jay got the shaft. NBC has a habit of cancelling shows in infancy if they don’t instantly produce the numbers they expect. It was a mistake to think that Jay’s show would pull in all the regular 10pm drama watchers with all the other great dramas on other networks. The mistake was to think that by putting Jay and Conan together NBC was garanteeing itself not only their regular viewers, but new viewers because of jay leading into Conan’s show. It takes time to convince 5 million people to commit to a new show even if the people involved are well known. NBC expects to have immediate results. You can’t have immediate results when people arent loyal to you. How many great shows has NBC cancelled right after launch?? NBC has a revolving door of shows and that has pissed off the viewers. I for one don’t watch NBC that much anymore because i don’t have faith that their shows will last and I don’t want to fall for a show that will be cancelled within 6 months.. I’m honestly surprised that Heroes is still on the airl.

  • Ace

    NBC does not deserve Conan.
    I’m not sure if Fox is the right answer, but it’s at least preferable for Conan lying down and taking NBC’s abuse.

    Well, whatever happens, so long as I can watch Conan, I’ll be happy. Though I somehow suspect that NBC wants Leno’s one-hour late night show back on schedule, and they made this switch with full knowledge that Conan would drop out.

  • Don’t take the bait, Conan!

    Your ratings will be overshadowed by Jay and Letterman. Hold on to your audience at NBC.

  • Jaslene

    I’ve always been more a fan of Letterman and Leno (and more recent Falon). So if Conan moves to Fox its fine by me. I was disappointed when NBC made Conan Leno’s replacement. They should of picked someone who was lesser known and who hadnt done a late night talk show b4. I hear they cancelled Carson Dalys late night show… Good move.

    • J28

      I agree… good move cancelling Carsons show. I heard it on the news the other night. But it won’t be the last we see of him they said. :(

    • Dan

      If you had no one on your mind to replace Leno, then NBC had no one on their mind. Same when they replace Conan with Fallon. Then again, you must be young to remember the Leno-Letterman fisaco that happens when Johnny retired.

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