Fox Broadcasting is hoping to finalize a deal to bring Conan O’Brien to its latenight airwaves in time to announce it during the network’s upfront on May 17, reports Meg James at the Los Angeles Times.
Those close to the comedian are also hopeful that a deal can be made, according to the article.
One key element to be worked out, the paper says, is whether O’Brien’s camp thinks it can put on the show for less than $60 million annually, far less than the nearly $90 million that NBC spent, including O’Brien’s salary.
Citing sources, the paper says that top executives, including Rupert Murdoch are on board with bringing O’Brien onboard, but the issue of getting affiliates to give up the lucrative time remains another key hurdle. But last week, the paper says, Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly and Entertainment chairman Peter Rice came up with plan that works financially for the network.
According to James’ report, "The major hurdle comes from Fox stations, which are obligated to air reruns at specific time periods, in some cases after the 10 p.m. news. That would mean forcing a proposed O’Brien show, at least initially, to air at different time periods: 11 p.m. in some markets, 11:30 — or later — in other cities.
"Without a uniform start time, it would be hard to get traction for a show and hard to promote it," said Jason Maltby, a top ad buyer for the firm Mindshare. "Saying, ‘Check your local listings’ doesn’t have the same ring to it as saying, ‘ "The Tonight Show at 11:35 p.m." ‘ "
The report says it could be up to two years before some affiliates could run the show at 11 p.m.
If a deal with Fox isn’t consummated, O’Brien will consider his options on cable, the report says.