Conan Will Shift to 30-Minute Format Next Year in Comedian’s New Multi-Platform TBS Deal

New partnership includes more digital content and live events

Conan O'Brien, who moved to TBS in 2010, will cut his daily late-night show to 30 minutes next year. Meghan Sinclair/Conaco
Headshot of Jason Lynch

Conan O’Brien is scaling back his late-night TBS series, Conan, to a nightly half-hour format next year—but that doesn’t mean comedian is on his way out at the network.
Instead, he has finalized a new deal with TBS that expands his Team Coco portfolio into more digital and social platforms, as well as live events. Overseeing the Team Coco expansion is Billy Parks, who has been named chief brand officer.
As part of that evolution, Conan’s late-night TBS show, which airs Mondays through Thursdays, will shift from an hour to “a new, less structured 30-minute format,” the network said in its announcement.
“Since I inherited my Late Night show in 1993, TV has changed exponentially. 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,” O’Brien said in a statement. “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.”
Later this year, the host and a group of fellow stand-up comics will embark on a multi-city tour, hosted by O’Brien. Team Coco will create more linear and digital shows, which Turner hopes will showcase brands in the vein of Clueless Gamer, which has included dozens of brand integrations.
In a conference call with reporters, O’Brien said when he started at Late Night With Conan O’Brien 25 years ago, “I had absolutely nothing to do with advertising,” but that has changed as brands pursued him for integrations.
“We realized, if you do it in a funny way, then it works out,” he said, pointing to a recent Burger King integration he did with Magic Johnson. “It was a really fun, remote segment, and the fact that it was for Burger King seemed beside the point. No one lost their soul in the process.”
Kevin Reilly, president of TBS and TNT, and chief creative officer of Turner Entertainment, told reporters that the linear format “restricts” which brands could be involved with the show, but now they are hoping to attract new brands.
Conan’s TBS show will continue to travel internationally as part of a Conan Without Borders series of hour-long specials that have already taken him to places like Cuba, Haiti and Israel. To celebrate Conan’s 25 years in late-night, his catalog from NBC’s Late Night With Conan O’Brien (which aired from 1993-2009) and TBS’ Conan will be available digitally in a new website launching this fall. O’Brien said he is still talking with NBC about also getting access to his Tonight Show library.
“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,” said O’Brien in his statement. “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.”
In the conference call, O’Brien said that the half-hour format will include fewer celebrity guests and more taped segments. “I like the idea that the show can be whatever we think is the best program that night. So it can bob and weave,” he said.
Under O’Brien’s new deal, “the idea is not to make less content, but probably even more,” he said, explaining that the changes in the industry during the last several years “have opened up all these possibilities that didn’t exist for me five years ago” and that’s he’s “enjoying myself more” than he has in years.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV/Media Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.