In a move that could be interpreted either as a sign of flagging fortunes for the cheeky upstart-turned-late-night institution or as a symbol of the show’s success in continually innovating the traditional late-night format, TBS is changing Conan’s format from a 60-minute nightly show to to a 60-minute weekly one.
That news comes courtesy of The Wrap, which cites Turner CEO John Martin as saying that he believes the format change will benefit the show, allowing host Conan O’Brien to do more of his signature remote segments—last year, the show made TV history by being the first American talk show to shoot in Cuba since the U.S. embargo of 1962—and more silly, staged segments in general.
Martin also cites the success of Conan’s sister program Full Frontal With Samantha Bee in its weekly time slot on TBS, and says that O’Brien is “holding his own” in the increasingly crowded late-night landscape. The Wrap is skeptical, however, saying that Conan continuously underperformed ratings-wise in the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to The Daily Show, which itself has lost some of its luster since Jon Stewart left the show last year. Let’s stick with the Samantha Bee comparisons, shall we?
UPDATE: Just a few hours after The Wrap released its report, TBS president Kevin Reilly gave an interview to The Hollywood Reporter denying its contents. Reilly says that Conan is not going weekly, at least not in the immediate future. But it is a possibility in the long term, and O’Brien is talking with TBS executives to figure out how the show “will shift” to keep up with the changing times. First on the agenda: an unscripted spin-off series based on Conan’s popular “Clueless Gamer” segment. Reilly adds in a statement:
Conan remains an invaluable franchise, partner and producer for our TBS brand and we’ll be in business with him for a long time. As the media landscape continues to evolve, Conan will continue to lead the evolution of what a talk show will be in the digital age. At this time, we have no plans to change the format or frequency of his popular TBS show. In addition to Conan’s daily responsibilities to his talk show, we continue to have very ambitious plans that will further broaden and evolve our relationship with Conan.