I have a plan for Fox to change the Late Night game – it extends beyond just hiring Conan – and in the process it would leverage their existing assets and create a significant stream of revenue for the Fox television network. This strategy would shake up the network TV landscape, and would offer Fox the opportunity to join the party at 11:35 PM.
It wasn’t that long ago that Fox was as struggling start-up network, however today it is often ranked at the top of the ratings with blockbusters like American Idol, and 24, and yet after the local news at 10 PM the local affiliates transition to blocks of syndicated sitcoms. So, it’s time to shake things up and move past old Seinfeld repeats.
Here’s the idea: build a national newscast to air at 11 PM using the resources of the Fox News Channel and then lead into Conan O’Brien at 11:35 PM. It’s the perfect opportunity to extend the Fox News Channel’s brand, to bring something new to the timeslot, and to set Conan up for a fair fight in late night. On the other Networks, the traditional 11 PM newscast has been produced by the local affiliates, however Fox already serves that niche at 10 PM and there is no other eleven o’clock National newscast on any of the broadcast networks. This would offer Fox the opportunity to differentiate its programming, showcase its news reporting talents, and to familiarize new audiences with the FNC brand, and then position them to lead into Conan at 11:35 PM. With that strategy, since Conan’s demos match up better with Fox’s than NBC, he could build an audience that would grow over time and carve out a real home run for Fox in the Late Night day-part.
While many are arguing that Conan can sign with Fox and go on the air at 11 PM to beat Jay and Dave to the punch, I think that’s the wrong approach. It’s too similar to Jay Leno’s failed primetime experiment; which if nothing else teaches us that audiences expect that Late Night television will start after the late news. Further, a weakness of putting Conan on at 11 PM is that Fox could find itself in the precarious position of viewer turnout thirty-five minutes into his program as they flip to Leno or Letterman.
This proposed strategy has a unique value proposition as a win, win, win. First, a win for the affiliates because Fox will make their 11 PM more relevant and differentiate them in their marketplace; a win for Conan who gets to re-join the Late Night competition going head to head with his rivals, and perhaps most importantly a win for advertisers who covet Fox’s younger skewing demos.
If you happen to work for the Fox network feel free to run with the idea; of course I would be happy to further consult with you on how to best design and bring this strategy to fruition…