Conan O'Brien's TBS Late-Night Show Reduced to Half-Hour in 2019

Conan_Desk - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of TBS

Conan is changing its format.

A year after signing a new four-year deal with TBS, the Turner-owned cable network announced Thursday that it will reduce Conan O'Brien's little-watched late-night series from an hour a night to a half hour a night come 2019. Additionally, TBS is expanding its partnership with O'Brien's Team Coco and has unveiled plans to expand its touring and online efforts connected to the long-running late-night series.

"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," O'Brien said in a release announcing the changes. "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. 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."

Late-night's longest-tenured host will continue to air four nights a week and starting next year will unveil a less structured 30-minute format that will feature guests and a variety of segments drawn from the newly expanded Team Coco portfolio. Team Coco, which has enlisted former Otter Media exec vp creative Billy Parks to serve in the newly created position of chief brand officer for the joint venture with TBS, will expand to include television, digital, social and live events that will allow O'Brien to have a greater interaction across multiple platforms. Conan has the youngest audience of any late-night series and has an equally impressive digital presence with more than 3.4 billion video views. 

Team Coco's expansion will also feature talent deals with stand-up comedians that will be driven by live touring and original digital material. That will kick off late this year, when O'Brien and his team of comics will embark on a multicity tour. Conan will continue to feature an array of emerging stand-up comedians on its linear and nonlinear platforms.

"Conan's always been a fearless performer, and now, at the top of his form, I'm excited he's taking a gutsy step forward with us into new arenas," said Kevin Reilly, president of TBS and TNT and chief creative officer of Turner Entertainment.

For his part, Parks will work closely with Conan exec producer Jeff Ross to grow Team Coco's initiatives with the show's popular branded segment "Clueless Gamer" — which is in development as a TBS series — serving as an example of how Team Coco will help partner itself with multiple other brands.

"Not only does Conan have an epic history of working on one of the most prestigious and long-running shows in comedy, the way he and his team have evolved the show over the past five years to create touch points that weave linear, digital and live for fans and brands is impressive. I am excited to be a part of the team as TBS and Team Coco double down on being funny everywhere," Parks said.

The touring component builds on the show's history of taking its show on the road to locations such as Cuba, Mexico, Haiti and Israel via its Conan Without Borders series of specials.

Additionally, as O'Brien celebrates 25 years on late-night TV (with eight of them at TBS), Team Coco will partner with NBC and TBS to put the host's entire Late Night With Conan O'Brien and Conan catalog online.

"Starting out on Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons, through Late Night and my work with TBS, one of the great joys of my life has been collaborating with brilliantly funny people," O'Brien said. "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. 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."

The shift comes more than a year after rumors surfaced that TBS was plotting to reduce Conan to a weekly format. Reilly denied those plans and stressed that the series would eventually "shift," particularly after O'Brien's stops in Cuba, Berlin and South Korea scored ratings bumps for TBS and as the host continued to find success online with a number of viral clips.

O'Brien a year ago acknowledged how much the late-night space has changed since he inherited what he called the "traditional talk-show format" in 1993. In his quote for the show's four-year renewal last May, the host noted he was "eager to evolve" his show into "something leaner, more agile and more unpredictable."