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Conan O'Brien Leaves NBC

Conan O’Brien is back on television starting in November. After the much publicized breakup of Conan and NBC, the lanky, red-haired stand-up begins hosting his new show on TBS. (for those who want it, embed this code on your site and add a countdown: <script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://www.teamcoco.com/widget/countdown.js”></script> )

For TBS, Conan seems a perfect fit for their “Very Funny” strategy. I know there are plenty of you out there that don’t get Coco, but personally I love him. I’m not really a Leno or Letterman fan and Conan gives me an option at the 10pm central timeslot. And the Conan lead in can really only help the George Lopez show.

Will Conan get the last laugh against NBC in the end? My real question is if this talk-show takeover by a “cable” channel is the final deathblow to network television stations. In the early days of television the networks ruled. All the best shows, events and news aired on network stations. But today? Sporting events are owned by ESPN. Cable shows like Mad Men and True Blood are winning as many, if not more, awards than network television. (HBO took top honors at the Emmys this year.) And with CNN, FOX News and MSNBC there are more news options than you can count. And yes, I realize two of those are technically “networks”, but they’re not by all the other network channels on the cable guide.

But until now the networks have owned the night-time talk show. Sure, Comedy Central had The Daily Show and Colbert Report and Chelsea has her niche audience, but no cable station was going head-to-head with the big boys. The Conan/Lopez combination is the first true competitor to the networks in this arena…and it has some punch.

As long as the networks continue to own local news there will be a certain je ne sais qua to being NBC/CBS/ABC/FOX, but if the networks aren’t dead, they’re certainly headed towards life support. With the likes of TBS, AMC and F/X all carving out audience segments (and winning awards), the networks had better get their brands in order. If they don’t, will we be saying goodbye to a major network? Doubtful because of the dollars behind them, but maybe they’ll just end up being the local news channels? Sounds ridiculous now but we’ll have to wait and see.

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