UPDATE, FRIDAY 5 P.M. PT: Now NBC’s own "Access Hollywood" is closing the door on any chance of Conan staying at 11:35; click here for more.
Fox has a message for Team Conan: If NBC doesn’t want you, we might be open to a deal.
And if the latest reports are true, O’Brien might be interested. The New York Times Friday indicated that O’Brien’s camp isn’t interested in what NBC is currently offering.
"Representatives of Mr. O’Brien made it clear the comedian has not accepted NBC’s plan and was likely not to agree any time in the near future," the paper noted in a post on its Media Decoder blog.
O’Brien’s producer, manager and agent have not responded to calls in the last 24 hours. Other industry insiders said talks continue between all parties, but that there’s very little chance of anything being settled by the time NBC meets the press at the TV Critics Assn. Sunday.
The buzz about O’Brien’s displeasure with NBC’s current plan comes after 24 hours of rumors over what O’Brien’s next move might be if he doesn’t decide to stay at NBC. The network is offering to keep him as host of "The Tonight Show," but at midnight rather than 11:35.
There was early talk that Fox, while once very much interested in O’Brien, had cooled toward the concept of a late night show from him. But now, sources at Fox are indicating that actually… yes, we might be game.
"We’ve always been interested in late night and we’re always looking to bring great new talent to Fox," a network source told TheWrap.
The insider said O’Brien "would be a great fit" at the network, but noted the comic is "still under contract with NBC."
In other words, Fox probably can’t officially talk to O’Brien unless and until it feels NBC has moved on, or breached its deal with him
"So we’ll just see how all of this plays out," the source said.
Translation: Never say never.
This one’s developing… or perhaps a bit of mischief-making on the part of Fox.
After all, even if the network ultimately doesn’t want to devote the resources to an O’Brien show, it can’t hurt to make NBC think it would want to. The more options O’Brien has, the more leverage he could have in his camp’s talks with the network over what happens next.
And if that means NBC pays more money to either keep or part ways with O’Brien? Well, there’s no harm in that, is there?
Likewise, O’Brien has plenty of fans out there who’d love to watch his brand of comedy at 11 p.m. each night. If by some turn of events O’Brien did make the leap, it could finally put Fox on the latenight map.
Among the roadblocks to such a move: Clearing a show on Fox affiliates. Stations get to keep their 11 p.m. ad revenue now, and might not be keen on giving up that money.