TBS’s late-night Conan is changing formats and going to half-hour episodes beginning in 2019. The show will continue to air four nights a week (instead of once per week, as rumored last year).
Old-school folks might consider this a demotion. Or a way to cut the budget for the low-rated talk show.
It is not.
Conan doesn’t get huge Nielsen ratings, but it does have a huge online presence, boasting 3.4 billion video views. Among the late-night hosts, it also has the youngest demographic. A half-hour episode is a better way to tailor it to those young, online audiences, who already have plenty of television options. Like most everyone these days, we watch late night talk shows in 5-minute clips on YouTube the next day, anyway, and I very much doubt this change will result in fewer buzzy video clips.
Plus, let’s be honest: When is the last time that you watched the entire hour of a late-night talk show? Does anything worth mentioning happen in the last half hour? Sam Bee and John Oliver have found immense success with the half-hour format, as has The Daily Show for over two decades, and I suspect it will allow Conan and his staff to concentrate all of their energy toward a solid 22-minutes, which means less filler.
The show will still feature guests and the usual array of Conan comedy bits. “A half-hour show will give me the time to do a higher percentage of the comedy in, and out, of the studio that I love and that seems to resonate in this new digital world,” Conan said. “It’s still going to be me hosting a very silly show, but I want segments on my half-hour program to link to digital content, deepening the experience for my younger fans, and confusing my older ones.”
I think this is great, and I suspect that it will eventually lead to similar changes in late-night on network television. I also suggest that he have Timothy Olyphant on once a week.