Fox and Conan: All Eyes on Las Vegas

The usually dull NAB convention could heat up a bit as Fox stations buzz about the possibility of Coco on the network

Conan O’Brien could bring a little excitement to the usually staid National Association of Broadcasters convention this week.

No, Coco won’t be there. He’ll be in Eugene, Colorado and Vancouver for the opening nights of his Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television tour.

But Tuesday, Fox will hold its annual affiliate confab at NAB. And you can expect O’Brien to be a topic of discussion — if not officially, certainly in the hallway chatter.

As has been the case for months, Fox and Team Coco continue to hash out a way to get O’Brien on the air at Fox. And as has been the case since the moment it became clear O’Brien was leaving NBC, the biggest obstacles to a Conan-Fox deal have been (a) making sure the show could work financially and (b) figuring out how to deal with the Fox-owned stations and Fox affiliates who might not be keen on giving up profitable repeats of past primetime hits in favor of something fresh and original.

The O’Brien camp has said from the start that it would be willing to work for much less than might be expected, allowing Fox to avoid bleeding red ink on a Conan show.

"This has never been about money for Conan," a source close to the talks told TheWrap back on February 7 — two months before a new wave of reports surfaced claiming O’Brien had made salary concessions.

As for its own stations and affiliates, Fox and O’Brien would obviously want to get as many stations on board from the start. But O’Brien’s team has always been realistic in understanding that a number of stations simply won’t run his new show in pattern right away.

To quote ourselves (yes, we’re getting meta. Or obnoxious. You choose) from February, "It’s quite possible that O’Brien on Fox would launch with far less than full national clearance at 11 p.m. Some stations will delay it until 11:30 p.m. or midnight, if they carry it all."

The big question headed into the Fox affiliate conference is just how much Fox execs will use the meeting to make the case for O’Brien — or simply solicit input about the idea in advance of a deal. Broadcasting & Cable reported a few weeks back that affiliates hadn’t officially been asked their take on the matter, but with a possible deal between O’Brien and Fox getting closer, the network at some point will want to begin a discussion with stations about the matter.

A number of reporters certainly think so. MoJoe hears that journalists from publications one wouldn’t always expect to see at NAB  are scheduled to be in town during the convention, and we assume, the Fox affiliate conference.

Memo to Fox: Might want to beef up security, just in case TMZ decides to sneak someone into the closed-door sessions.

Meanwhile, expect plenty of "Eugene, OR" datelines tomorrow: A number of big media outlets, including the New York Times, are expected to be on hand for the first night of O’Brien’s tour. So much for opening out in the sticks… 

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