According to the Los Angeles Times, Fox is close to a deal to have Conan O’Brien host a late night show – and that the goal is to have a deal in place in time for a big splash when the network makes its Upfront pitch on May 17th.
Despite the profits Fox O&Os (and affiliates) derive from airing series reruns following their 10:00 pm (ET/PT) local newscasts, the Times entertainment news blog says News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch and other executives realize it’s now or never if Fox wants to enter the late night competition.
As with so many things, it all comes down to money. The Times quotes sources as saying that Fox isn‘t willing to spend the $90 million per year that NBC had paid for the “Tonight Show” when it was hosted by O’Brien, but rather less than $60 million.
There’s also the issue of existing contracts for syndicated reruns, which could mean that, at least initially, a new Conan O’Brien show on Fox would start at different times in different markets. The blog story says the goal would be to move to a uniform start time as those contracts expire. The time mentioned is 11:00 pm – which would follow local newscasts and give O’Brien a headstart of more than a half hour each night over Jay Leno on NBC and David Letterman at CBS, each starting their show at 11:35 pm.