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April 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

In an announcement that surprised — no, probably shocked — many industry observers, Turner Broadcasting said today (Monday) that Conan O’Brien would host a late-night show on TBS beginning in the fall. “Conan has been the comedic voice for a generation. TBS already has a huge audience of young comedy lovers, and Conan’s show will give these fans even more reasons to watch our network,” Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks, said in the company’s statement. “For decades, late-night TV has been dominated by broadcast television. Now, with a young audience and a growing late-night lineup, TBS is set to be the choice of comedy fans for years to come,” Koonin added. Many industry observers had figured that O’Brien would be heading for Fox and that a deal with the Rupert Murdoch-owned network was all but signed. That assumption was bolstered over the weekend when Roger Ailes, chairman of Twentieth Television and Fox Television Stations, told Sunday’s Chicago Tribune, “We all admire him as a talent” and noted that Peter Rice, Fox’s head of entertainment, “is very much in favor” of putting O’Brien on the network. But some speculated that if O’Brien was unhappy about the weak lead-in that he endured at NBC when he hosted The Tonight Show, he would have been even more so over having to follow the 10:00 p.m. newscasts that air on most Fox stations — newscasts that usually rank well below network fare on the other broadcast networks, NBC included. Moreover, Fox was believed to be dithering about a deal with O’Brien, in particular trying to figure out how to bring him aboard yet extract itself from syndication deals that required its key stations to air certain programs during the 11:00 p.m. time period. Nevertheless, Ailes told the Tribune on Sunday: “”I can’t imagine anybody running a network who wouldn’t want his own late-night show, and I think that’s probably correct thinking.” TBS said that George Lopez, who currently occupies the 11:00 p.m. time period, personally called O’Brien and urged him to move to the cable channel. Lopez said that he himself would be happy to move to 12:00 midnight. “I can’t think of anything better than doing my show with Conan as my lead-in,” Lopez said. O’Brien himself quipped: “In three months I’ve gone from network television to Twitter to performing live in theaters, and now I’m headed to basic cable. My plan is working perfectly.”