TBS: We'll air 'Conan' forever at these ratings (but O'Brien says he has other plans)

Photo credit: Meghan Sinclair

Ratings for Conan O’Brien’s TBS talk show may have dropped notably since his mega-hyped fall debut, but that doesn’t faze his network’s programming chief.

Michael Wright, head of programming at TBS, says that O’Brien’s current nightly average (around 1 million adults 18-49), and his relatively youthful median audience age (33), is good enough to keep renewing the show.

“I discount the first week’s ratings, as anybody should for a talk show or even a scripted program,” said Wright after entertaining TV critics visiting the Conan set. “It’s landing right about where we expected it to. At this number, Conan will run as long as he wants it to.”

Which sounds great for Coco fans, but also prompts a follow-up: How long does O’Brien want to continue as a talk show host?

Luckily, O’Brien was standing ten feet away, and had something to say on the subject — and a few words David Letterman, Jay Leno, NBC and whether he’s a sex symbol too.

“My goal is not to do this forever,” O’Brien said. “I just want to do this really well for a period of time until I have nothing left to say and then go away.”

O’Brien also candidly weighed in on several topics, including…

Post-NBC claims that he’s now a sex symbol (the beard helps): “No. Horrifying. I’m the worst person to comment on this. I grew a beard because I hate shaving. It’s a feeling of liberation, and everybody who loses a job does it, or something. Next thing you know we’re taking publicity photos with the beard. It could go tomorrow. I completely reject the notion I’m in any way a sex symbol and I think my fans do as well.”

Getting a holiday phone call from David Letterman: “It was just a quick call. We hadn’t spoken in a long time. He said, ‘I haven’t checked in on you and want to make sure we’re good.’ I said, ‘We’ve always been good.’ I said he didn’t owe me a call, but I appreciate it.”

On whether he’ll ever talk to Jay Leno again: “I — no — I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s — there’s nothing to be figured out. We all know the story. Life is short. I have kids and family and life to live. I don’t think about it too much. And I’m sure he’s busy.”

On what he misses most about NBC: “I was with that company for a long time and had a lot of amazing experience with them and felt like I was part of that family. It meant a lot to me and there are times when I still feel that loss. There’s a whole body of work I’m now detached from and I know I will not go into that world again.”

On whether his audience chanting “Conan! Conan” is getting old: “We can’t seem to stop it. It will play itself over time. It’s been a crazy journey of discovery — this show could become a game show in a year. [The chanting] has a Stalin-esque feel about it. It’s fun to be Mussolini for five minutes. We certainly don’t take it seriously or encourage it.”

On the best thing about his show today: “There’s nothing like walking away from The Tonight Show to really appreciate being on TV. The feeling here is a very different feeling. There’s like a pirate ship feeling to this show. That’s the biggest comment I get, anywhere I go: ‘You look like you’re having a blast.'”

Comments (138 total) Add your comment
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  • LOL

    I’m with Coco!

    • Rush

      What else do they have to run in that timeslot, more Family Guy re-runs? Though the Family Guy re-runs probably get better ratings….hmmm.

  • Sally

    I’ll be glad when he finally does go away. Sick to death of him. I’m not with CoCo.

    • paul

      Many say the same about you Sally.

      • Sarah

        hahahaha THIS!

      • Tye-Grr


      • cj

        LOL. What Paul said.

      • herr fischer

        bullseye. good one.

    • Jeff

      Sally – Then why read the story? Why even care what he’s up to? I hate Leno and I never watch his show or care what he’s saying and I avoid it. It’s not hard to do.

      • The Man

        Well said, Jeff! I’m in the same boat. Won’t sit through another minute of Jay, who, by the way, does NOT have the best chin in the biz (no matter what some may say). That honor belongs to Bruce Campbell, who could kick Jay’s A$$!!!

      • Matt Hurt

        Awesome! I was thinking bruce would be a great replacement for charlie sheen on 2 1/2 men.. but really i think sitcoms are below him.

    • Ian

      How can you be sick to death of him? Are you forced to watch his show against your will or something? I hate Leno, but saying I’m sick of him would imply I watch him on a regular basis. hard to be sick of someone I haven’t watched in over a decade, lol.

      • Lakawak

        IT is actually very easy to be sick of him without watching the show. Becuase ever since last January, all the children (most of whom NEVER watched him up to that point) won’t shut the hell up about him. And worst, they like to change history to suit their needs.

    • Alice

      One wonders why you would read a story about someone you’re sick of. Does not compute.

    • mephysto

      Yet you choose to click on the article and most like read it. Such loser

    • Mary

      Sally, do the world a favor and really look into sterilization. It’d be good for the future.

      • Hombre

        So she doesn’t like Conan and needs to be sterilized? Do us a favor Mary and jump in front of a train! Idiot.

      • Mary

        Looks like we found Sally’s husband, everyone.

      • Jeff

        Way to miss the point Hombre. Idiot!

      • Dave

        When Hombre Met Sally

      • Collin

        Personally I’m glad Hombre pointed this out! We probably shouldn’t sterilize people. I sure am glad he got to us before we did something rash. Idiot.

      • Johnette

        wait, she has to be sterilized because she said something you dont agree with…

        How childish and dumb of you to say that.. really.. sad

    • Mike

      If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. Vent your peripheral frustrations to your mother.

      • Amy

        Shut up. Conan sucks!!

      • JCakes

        Oh yeah, well your face is a butt and your mom wears stinky underwear! Way to bring this back to grade school, Amy.

    • Donna ImwithCoco

      She’s SO sick of him, in her spare time she clicks onto articles with his name in the title and comments about him. Don’t be fooled. She likes him, she really likes him! Loser.

    • big where it counts

      I hear that Sally smells like trout.

    • jp

      A troll named Sally. How nice.

    • CoCoRosie

      I’ll be glad when Palin is gone, Conan is here to stay.

    • kerry

      I’m sick of Conan too. He’s not funny. He only gets a 1 million viewers. Charlie Sheen can get more than that on You Tube. lmao

    • Gail

      You would think Jay Leno could come up with more creative pseudonyms than “Sally” or “Hombre”… but then you remember his monologues.

    • JCakes

      Mustang Sally, girl you betta slow your mustang down. Also, stop being a jerkface. I AM with CoCo. He’s always had a great show, and always will.

  • Kate

    Love him!

    • Laundry

      Then why, Kate, did you read the article? Oh wait, it’s because you love him. Okay then.

      • Peter

        Bahaha! Nice.

      • Kate

        I know it’s weird that I read articles about people I like rather than wasting time on people I don’t.

      • MelindaB

        Seriously, Kate. Don’t you know how the internet works?

  • Trudy

    So looking forward to not having him on TV anymore. I find nothing funny about him……he is disgusting….just look at the picture with article! He makes me want to throw up. I’m really disappointed with TBS & some of the shows it is showing. Used to be one of my favorite TV channels……..not anymore!!!!!

    • Jo

      You were fat in high school and you have an old-lady name. Also, you’re probably infertile.

      G’bye! x)

      • Lakawak

        Yup…this level of maturity pretty much sums up why Conan’s ratings are so low. Because even people who have been fans his whole career (like me) want no part of his current fanbase. I certianly don’t want to be lumped in with people like Jo, acting like an immature 10 year old.


      Someone can’t take a joke and obviously is a leno fan. Leno is so unfunny that he had to get rid of Conan who is obviously WAY funnier than him.

      • Lakawak

        How exactly did Leno get rid of Conan?

    • Andre

      I cannot name one other program on TBS, and if you asked me blindly what network Conan is on, I would really have to stop and think about it.

      • byron

        meet the browns, house of payne, anything boring by tyler perry and tbs has got it

    • bre

      I’m to go head and speak for all my fellow Conan fans and say in response to your opinion of Coco: “We don’t really care.”

    • Ray

      Lakawak, you’re not infertile, just unwanted. Please leave the internet right now and never come back. Literally. Never. Don’t even think about it.

    • Sara

      …if you’re trying to pretend that those jeggings don’t seriously turn you on, you might as well stop, cause nobody’s buying it.

  • James

    I’m so tired of Sally…This entire comments section is about her. I’ll be glad when she starts commenting about something else.

    • Jeneva


    • Andre

      I can’t wait to hear what Sally has to say on everything. My world stands in wait for her lead. What will I have for dinner? I don’t know! Sally – please comment on dinner!

      • Sally

        How about what I’m having? Something boring for dinner, like boiled potatoes and ham.

  • justink

    that’s a great picture. haha.


      It really is. That episode was epic

  • schaden

    I’m staying with Conan for the rest of my life. And by the way, I disagree, I think the beard is sexy.

  • President-Elect Sarah Palin in 2012

    Please. Conan and Letterman are just shills for the criminal One-Termer. When honesty and integrity are restored in 2012, and the One-Termer is imprisoned in January of 2013, only purity will be allowed on television. FACT!

    • Jeff

      That’s right, Dave and Conan are working for Obama and his master plan. You’re onto us. What would he be in prison for exactly? Is this the place for politics? Do you have too much free time? So many questions. Get a sense of humor and when it comes to politics, focus on anyone else but Palin. I don’t care what party but look for someone who actually makes sense at least 30% of the time.

    • Rich

      Others may disagree, but I liked Rush Limbaugh better before he got off the meds and started randomly posting on EW message boards in his spare time.

    • Lakawak

      That is an odd attempt to troll. Conan is the least political talk show host pretty much EVER. That is why all those huge “fans” (who never watched Conan and knew nothing about his career) who suggested he should join Colbert and Stewart on Comedy Central were complete idiots.

    • thefatman

      thanks for being the first loser to shoehorn Obama-bashing into a totally unrelated discussion!

      I’m sure half-Governor Barbie would thank you if she could.

  • Jen

    the jeggings ep was classic…you go Coco!

  • what you thinkin

    I can see now Conan the loser is supported by a whole bunch of bigger losers. Calling for sterization for voicing her opinion? Conan’s team need to find a job and Conan needs to get over it.

    • Elmo

      And now it seems we’ve found Sally’s aborted fetus.

      • Ray

        Hahahahahaha. Oh, Sally…

      • Johnette

        I only saw Sally say one thing… and people keep acting like she went on and on….with lame jokes .. can she not have an oppinion. She doesnt think O’Brian is funny.. so what?

  • Charles

    Conan! Conan!
    No new episodes for some weeks now.
    Is he back?

  • JohnnyTsunami


  • Gumbo Gary

    Conan and several of his writers came to my rescue when I was being mugged, then they drove me home. They said my house looked shabby, so they all stayed and repainted it. Then he got me a dog.

    • Jimmers

      AWESOME! Best. Post. Ever.

  • Prof Zed

    Good to see that Conan isn’t digging into Leno. Leno isn’t worth the time. Conan’s got class. His show is a great alternative to the local news, aka “35 minutes to get depressed by”. He should keep the beard. It at least makes him SEEM intellectual. (HAH!) Hope he sticks around a long time. He and the show are very creative. (Wish he would get rid of the huge moon behind the desk. It’s a bit distracting.)

    • Rick

      “Conan’s got class”? LOL….after Leno gave Conan the shaft, Conan turned around and did the same thing to Lopez. Both Leno and Conan are classless.

      • LOL

        How stupid.

      • Dent

        Unlike NBC, TBS asked Lopez first and George welcomed Conan wholeheartedly. Lopez has been with Team Coco from the very beginning.

      • Kevin

        Harvey here has it right. When TBS first offered Conan the deal to come to TBS at 11 Conan resisted and was on track to turn down the offer because he didn’t want to hurt Lopez in the same way NBC had just hurt hum.

        However, Lopez made a personal phone call to Conan begging him to come to TBS and agree to the plan. Despite the time slot move, Lopez saw the obvious ratings benefits of having Conan as his new lead in. A good move for sure. Despite being an hour later, Lopez has, without a doubt, gained viewers though the deal with Conan.

  • Andrew

    TBS needs to put Conan at 11:30 and Lopez at 12:30. That way I can tune in to Conan’s show during the best part rather than when it is halfway done and he is interviewing someone schilling for thier movie.

    This no cost move would increase Conan (and Lopez’s) ratings tremendously.

    • LOL

      What do you watch from 11 to 11:30? If it’s the Daily Show, you can catch it on a replay. Heck, you can even catch Conan on a replay.

      • Les

        Judging by Conan’s awful ratings, people are watching the Daily Show and not his show. I did laugh at head of programming at TBS trying to spin Conan’s low ratings. He has now officially bombed on two networks.

      • Lakawak

        Uhhh..Les…Conan’s ratings may be low…but they are still MUCH higher than Jon Stewart’s ratings.

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