FOX on Conan O'Brien: No real talks yet

conan-obrien-320.jpgFOX weighed in on the NBC late-night situation Monday -- sort of. All network chairman Peter Rice and FOX Entertainment president Kevin Reilly really had to say was that they were fans of Conan O'Brien.

"We're kind of digesting it the same way you are. We're a little bit in 'wowee' mode right now," Reilly told reporters Monday (Jan. 11) during FOX's time at the TV Critics Association press tour.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that FOX has had "early talks" with O'Brien, but Reilly says he's only chatted with "his people" in the course of other business: "We talk to them all the time. So we've had some informal conversations with them, mostly commiserating about the situation."

Reilly also said that while launching a late-night show "is never entirely off the agenda," there would be a lot of hurdles to jump before anything could happen. The biggest and most obvious is that O'Brien would have to want out at NBC, but beyond that there would be conversations with FOX affiliates, who make good money with syndicated programming in late-night, dealing with any waiting period NBC might impose and the general difficulty of breaking through what's already a pretty crowded late-night field.

"It's probably the hardest form in show business," Reilly says. "Having done everything, trying to create and home-grow a talk show -- very few people can actually do it. ... You've seen what happens. They can be painful."

Rice does say that if "a talent" became available, "it would of course have an impact on our decision process." But Reilly notes that affiliates have been hurt by the recession and the changing media landscape, so it's not as simple as just plugging Conan O'Brien in after the late local news.

"It's not something that's going to be handed down from on high," Reilly says. "If, IF, it comes to pass, there are a host of challenges involved in it. It's not as simple as we want him, turn key, he's on."

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Photo credit: NBC