New York The late-night guessing game is over, with a startling twist: Conan O’Brien has chosen TBS as his future talk-show home.
Expected to debut in November, the as-yet-untitled show will return O’Brien to the air after an absence that began in January when he abruptly left NBC, his employer of 17 years.
O’Brien’s new program will air Mondays through Thursdays at 10 p.m. Central, which will shift “Lopez Tonight,” starring George Lopez, from 10 p.m. CDT to 11 p.m.
O’Brien’s show will originate from Los Angeles, where he moved from New York for his short-lived stint hosting “The Tonight Show.” For the second half of each show, he will face off against Jay Leno, who replaced him.
The five-year contract gives O’Brien ownership of the show, according to a person familiar with the deal who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to publicly discuss it.
Upon TBS’ announcement Monday, O’Brien quickly fired out a celebratory tweet.
“The good news: I will be doing a show on TBS starting in November! The bad news: I’ll be playing Rudy on the all new Cosby Show,” he posted on Twitter.
TBS said that talks with O’Brien accelerated last week after Lopez called O’Brien to ask him to come aboard.
“I can’t think of anything better than doing my show with Conan as my lead-in. It’s the beginning of a new era in late-night comedy,” Lopez said in a statement released by TBS.
O’Brien’s bitter break with NBC took place after he had hosted “The Tonight Show” for just eight months. Having followed Leno with “Late Night” since 1993, O’Brien had been guaranteed his promotion to the “Tonight Show” last summer in a succession plan announced in 2004.
To keep Leno in the NBC fold, he was handed a prime-time show last fall that quickly flopped.
When O’Brien’s ratings flagged, NBC angled to move Leno to 10:35 p.m. Central, pushing O’Brien to a post-midnight slot. O’Brien refused, walking away with a $32 million settlement package.