Conan Deal Shows the Power of the Cable Business Model

Apr 13, 2010  •  Post A Comment

A number of articles are talking about Conan O’Brien going to TBS and the strength of the cable TV business model.

Kris Magel, exec VP-director, national broadcast, at Interpublic Group’s Initiative, told Advertising Age,  "Conan gives [TBS] a legitimate program block to compete with broadcast late night programming, which most likely will skew younger. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a nice youth-driven complement to the broadcast late-night programs developing on cable networks like Comedy Central and Adult Swim and E! TBS was already there with George Lopez. This now strengthens their position."

Ad Age also talks about how the ad dollars are different between broadcast and cable. Click here to see Ad Age’s whole story.

Meanwhile, Brad Adgate, senior vice president for research at Horizon Media, told our friend Stuart Elliott at the New York Times: "It points out that cable has an advantage when compared to broadcast since they [don’t] have any affiliates to contend with (or local news), Conan’s undoing at Fox and NBC."

And independent media analyst Steve Sternberg told Elliott: "I think Turner is a good fit for Conan. His audience might be too small for a broadcast network, but it’s a fiercely loyal audience that should provide more than enough viewers for TBS. He can also maintain more of the edginess that he was known for at 12:30, that had to be diluted for an earlier hour on broadcast."

Ken Tucker, the perceptive TV critic for Entertainment Weekly, wrote at EW.com that there are three reasons he also likes the deal:

1) Conan will draw what will be a big audience for cable. Says Tucker, "Conan won’t come close to Leno and Letterman in ratings, of course. But the perception (that combo of hype, demos, and word-of-mouth) will be that Conan is a hit. And perception counts for a lot. It’s what makes some of you think Jon Stewart, as good as he is, out-draws your local news at 11. He doesn’t."

2) "Conan instantly makes a square cable channel seem hip," Tucker writes.

3) Conan on Fox would have been a disaster, and he’d be compared to other Fox latenight failures as " the Chevy Chase and Joan Rivers shows," Tucker says.


  1. To paraphrase the guy in Jerry McGuire, “Show me the ratings!”

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