Conan O’Brien will own his show as part of five-year deal with TBS


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.”

Koonin reached out to O’Brien’s team and then went back to his own late-night host, George Lopez, who was also enthusiastic about the idea of bringing Conan to TBS. O’Brien will have his show at 11 p.m., and Lopez will move to midnight. Although Lopez will have a later time period, he also will likely have a bigger lead-in audience.

With its deal to have O’Brien anchor its late-night lineup, it looks like TBS finally is poised to step out of the shadows of its sexier younger sister, TNT. The cable channel has long been a cash cow for Time Warner but is still primarily known for its reruns of broadcast sitcoms such as “Family Guy” and “The Office.”

“We think Conan will, of course, help us attract other talent,” Koonin said.

Fox, meanwhile, has not issued any sort of statement about the O’Brien deal. Interestingly, the network is set to meet with its affiliates at the National Assn. of Broadcasters convention, now underway in Las Vegas, where the idea of O’Brien coming to Fox was expected to be a topic of discussion.