‘Conan’ to Shift to Weekly Format on TBS, Turner Chief Says (Exclusive)

Conan O’Brien’s recent remotes, excess of late-night competition lead to retooling

(Updated Thursday, January 5, 2017 at 5:30 p.m. ET with statement from TBS boss Kevin Reilly.)

Get ready to see less of Conan O’Brien.

TBS is planning to retool late-night talk show “Conan” to a weekly format instead of a nightly one, Turner CEO John Martin told TheWrap. It’s not immediately clear when this will occur.

The chairman spoke to TheWrap at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Wednesday night and explained that the show has worked best with O’Brien on the road. The comic and “Late Night” alum has recently taken his show to Cuba, Berlin and South Korea, among other locations. Those trips have proved a boon both creatively and in TV ratings.

On Thursday afternoon, TBS boss Kevin Reilly walked that plan back a bit: “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,” he said. “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.”

Martin believes one-hour weekly will prove better for the “Conan.” Samantha Bee does exactly that, by the way, and she’s made some waves of her own since “Full Frontal” launched on TBS. Part of the reason for the switch, Martin said, is that late night’s just too crowded and competitive. He added that O’Brien is holding his own, however.

Well, that’s debatable. Conan regularly loses in Nielsen TV ratings to key cable competition “The Daily Show” — and by a pretty decent margin. In the recent fourth quarter of 2016, “Conan” averaged 638,000 total viewers in Nielsen’s Live + 3 Day numbers. Trevor Noah landed 1.3 million per episode.

Even Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live” just bested O’Brien by that metric. Conan does beat Andy Cohen in the key 18-49 demographic, however. “Conan” averaged 356,000 demo viewers in Q4; “The Daily Show” brought in 616,000.

In case you were wondering, “Conan” does out-draw “@midnight.” Those two and “WWHL” don’t come close to the five late-night broadcast shows.

Show producer Conaco had no comment on the format change.

Sharon Waxman contributed to this story.