Coco Goes Cable

I’m just surprised because never considered TBS a player with enough heft to compete against Fox, the rumored leader in the Conan quest.

It was a shock to hear Conan O’Brien is going to TBS. The fact that I seldom watch TBS, cable’s original Superstation, probably stands in Conan’s favor. They’re not going after me. TBS with its mix of comedies gets a significantly younger audience than over-the-air network affiliates.

The whole economic workup is different on cable. Even with a smaller audience more money can be made–especially if it’s a harder to reach young audience. Cable makes money from advertising and subscription fees. TBS feels they can afford a budget for Conan similar to NBC’s. That’s got to scare the people who run the legacy networks.

Jon Stewart graces magazine covers and hosts big-time award programs, all for hosting a program that airs half an hour four nights a week to an average audience of 1.7 million — or about what Conan O’Brien was averaging in 1994 when NBC was thisclose to firing his ass. – Aaron Barnhardt, Kansas City Star

TV advertising is ageist. Younger demos sell for more because younger viewers are tougher to reach. It seems anti-intuitive because people my age tend to have more money than we did 20-30 years ago, but that’s how it is.

While Mr. Leno now has a median age of 56, with Mr. Letterman at 54, “Nightline” at 55, Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Kimmel both at 52, and even NBC’s younger act, Jimmy Fallon, at 50, Mr. Stewart comes in with a median age of 40 and Mr. Colbert younger still at 37.

(Youngest of all late-night hosts? George Lopez on his “Lopez Tonight” show on TBS. He has a smaller audience, but a very young one, with a median age of just 33.) – Bill Carter in the New York Times

I’m just surprised because I’ve never considered TBS a player with enough audience heft to compete against Fox, the rumored leader in the Conan quest. All I can think about is how TBS baseball telecasts compared to Fox’s games. TBS does not compare favorably.

I’m still waiting for the first high profile mainstream talent to make the jump to ‘direct Internet.’ A successful Internet show (audience successful, not just revenue successful as Leo Laporte’s TWIT TV is) would turn the industry on its ear and change everything we know about broadcasting.

5 thoughts on “Coco Goes Cable”

  1. OK, Geoff. How long until I can legitimately convince my wife that our old tube televisions HAVE to go to the special part of the dump where they kill the CRTs?

  2. The cache of a show’s being on a broadcast network just isn’t there for the younger demos. I would say that they don’t care, but I believe the fact is that they aren’t even aware the cache is supposed to exist.

    The luster of being on 2, 4 or 7 (or 8!!) doesn’t exist anymore–no offense intended–in the world of digital cable and original cable programming.

    As for Fox, it was the inconsistent clearances that kept them from bagging CoCo. Being on at 11p across the board on TBS beats being on at different times, or in some markets not at all, on Fox.

  3. Carl – You’re mainly correct, but there’s still tonnage associated with the legacy stations that TBS and other cable companies can’t match. Monday night ABC drew nearly 18 million viewers (though certainly older than anyone’s target demo). Who on cable can do that?

  4. Hi Geoff, I am your old friend Harry Wolf’s daughter. I’ve been reading your page somewhat frequently ever since my dad died.
    Anyway, I was seriously disheartened at the thought of a mainstream talent having a show via “direct internet”. Of course I love web TV. It’s great. But, there’s just something about falling asleep in bed to a talk show on a real television. Nothing like it 🙂

  5. And, as someone from a younger demographic, I do actually have an appreciation for a show being on a major broadcast network.

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