If Fox plans to introduce free agent funnyman Conan O'Brien at its upfront presentation in May, it's news to Fox affiliates chairman Brian Brady. "To the best of my knowledge, no pressure has been asserted on any Fox affiliates [by the network]," he says. "There's nothing definitive on Conan right now. If Fox decides to do something, they'll weigh in with [the board]."
Published reports have mentioned advanced negotiations between Fox and O'Brien's reps regarding a late-night show. But numerous Fox affiliates contacted last week said they'd heard nothing from Fox about a possible late-night shakeup. "We haven't heard a thing from the network," said one general manager at a leading Fox affiliate. "All we know is what we read in the trades."
Fox affiliates are largely split on the notion of the former Tonight Show host shifting to their late-night air, as they already have syndicated programming or local news-both which would appear to be more lucrative to the station than a network show. Many acknowledge O'Brien's comedic chops, but doubt he's got broad enough appeal to build a late-night franchise from scratch.
The Conan issue is sure to be near the top of the agenda when the affiliates body-and board--meet in Vegas next month as part of the NAB confab. But Brady says it's but one of many issues, including the ongoing spectrum battle and retransmission consent, to be discussed.
"Conan doesn't seem to be on the front burner," he says. "If it was, I'd be hearing about it."