Conan O’Brien moves to cable amid ad blitz, heightened viewer expectations

By Grant Braden

“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,” said Conan O’Brien, once host of a late-night show for NBC who is now moving his career to cable television.

The much-anticipated new show, which is called “Conan,” debuted Nov. 8 at 10 p.m. CST on TBS.

The show is obtaining a lot of publicity through commercials on the network as TBS continues to pour a tremendous amount of money into its promotion. It was the main ad for the Major League Baseball playoffs on TBS and received overwhelming attention with the NBA tip-off week.

Steve Beverly, associate professor of communication arts, explained how promoting something too much is not always a good thing.

“You can sometimes attempt to blitz so heavily that the show cannot live up to the hype,” Beverly said. “By the time he premieres, you’ll have almost two months of saturated promotion. … He’ll have a lot to live up to.”

O’Brien has lived in the shadow of two other popular late-night hosts — Jay Leno and David Letterman. TBS decided to grab the hottest name off the market and turn its late-night lineup into something to look forward to.

“I’m excited because I thought he was funny on his last network and on TBS there will be less guidelines,” said Austin Gray, freshman English major and fan of O’Brien since high school. “I’m expecting to see funny things I have never seen before from him.”

Something O’Brien can be excited about is his move to a later time slot. Fans of O’Brien’s are younger and more likely to be college-aged. An 11 p.m. time slot for the East Coast is a strategic move. Programs like “The Office” and “Family Guy” will appear before his show, helping keep the younger generation interested and intrigued.

This show’s failure would be devastating for TBS. The amount spent on acquiring O’Brien, and the advertising costs TBS has poured into the show are adding up and is putting immense pressure on the show to succeed.

“This is the most expensive, original show TBS has ever produced,” Beverly said, “and Conan will be under enormous pressure to deliver ratings and profits that TBS has never attracted in late-night television.”

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