In recent years, a major late night TV battle has played out on YouTube, and now, digital media has become so important in that category that one of the major players within it could soon transfer a majority of its operation online. At CES, multiple Turner executives noted that TBS’ flagship late night show Conan could move to a weekly TV schedule, but that “premium video content” will remain the program’s focus, no matter where it’s distributed.
News of Conan’s potential shift to a weekly format — which would fit better with host Conan O’Brien’s busy schedule — was first reported on January 5th. When asked that day about the rumor, Turner Chief Content Officer Kevin Reilly responded with a simple “maybe.” He also stressed that, even with TBS’ roots as a cable channel, it is important to embrace all platforms. “We need to embrace the realities of the day we live in and make [digital] an opportunity, not just an ancillary part of marketing for that linear show,” he said.
The next day, Turner President David Levy repurposed the classic “content is king” spiel to remind CES attendees that the quality of his company’s programming is more important than the method through which it is distributed. “The definition of a television network in 10 years, what’s that going to mean?” he asked. “Premium video content is what’s really important to Turner.”
Conan, like other late night programs, has a big following on YouTube, where its official channel has more than 4.6 million subscribers. In recent years, O’Brien has ingratiated himself into the online video world by rubbing shoulders with a few of that community’s biggest stars, including PewDiePie and Flula.
The rich history of late night programming goes back to the beginning of television, but despite that tradition, smart broadcasters are now recognizing the power of digital content. Turner has always seemed like a forward-thinking brand when it comes to online video, so don’t be surprised if Conan changes in major ways in the near future.