Conan O'Brien to Return to Late-Night TV--On Cable

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Last month we rounded up the biggest rumors about ousted Tonight Show host Conan O'Brien's next career move—everything from the story that he was going to be a movie star to the claim that he was headed to daytime TV. But no one predicted what would actually happen: that O'Brien would return to late night on TBS, a cable channel, rather than a network like NBC—where he was pushed out earlier this year, or Fox—where most thought he would land.

The New York Times' Bill Carter reports:

The former "Tonight Show" host has agreed to start up a new show on TBS, the comedy-oriented cable channel in the Turner network lineup. The new show will start in November and play at 11 p.m. weeknights, teamed with that network's other late-night show, hosted by George Lopez. That show, now at 11, will slide to midnight.

The news comes as a stunner because Mr. O'Brien was known to be in talks with the Fox network, and most predictions had him moving there in September or January.

O'Brien started out in cable television, as a writer on HBO's Not Necessarily the News, but his career has been defined by his work for the networks, thanks to jobs at The Simpsons on Fox and Saturday Night Live, The Late Show, and The Tonight Show, all on NBC.

Why did he decide go with TBS, where he'll have a smaller audience than he would at Fox? The Wrap blog says money may have had something to do with it:

His new pact with the network will allow O'Brien to own his own show, a la David Letterman, while also giving him an eight-figure compensation package described as "bigger than any other deal he's ever had," one person familiar with the agreement said.
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Eleanor Barkhorn is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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