Conan O’Brien’s Talk Show Will Shrink to a Half-Hour

Posted May 3, 2018 5:06 p.m. EDT

Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show “Conan” will shrink from an hour to a half-hour in 2019. The shift, announced by TBS on Thursday, is both an admission of the show’s slim live ratings and an effort to pivot toward O’Brien’s young and digital-minded fan base.

“I’ve been pushing for this for a while: something that fits the modern landscape, that certainly fits the way I interact with my fans more,” O’Brien said in a conference call Thursday. “I was looking for something more lean and agile.”

The change will happen in January. “Conan” will still air four nights a week, but will shift its focus away from celebrity guests and toward stand-up sets from young comics and off-site segments. O’Brien says he hopes the format allows him more flexibility.

“Anything that’s going to allow me to act on my instincts — to get to Mexico City to personally raise money for the wall, or go to Italy or Jerusalem — those are the things I want to double and triple down on,” he said.

O’Brien has found success online with “Conan Without Borders,” his travel show, in which he embraces cultural differences and spars with the locals in cities across the world. When those shows have aired on TBS, they have produced an uptick in ratings compared to his usual numbers, which still lag far behind those of the network late-night shows — hosted by Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon — and even “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah.”

O’Brien and Kevin Reilly, president of TBS and TNT, said that the shift wouldn’t necessarily lead to less content, and that different types of videos would be released online and on different platforms. For example, a stand-alone spinoff of “Clueless Gamer,” in which O’Brien plays new video games with celebrities, is in the works. And an online database of videos from across O’Brien’s 25-year career is slated to be released this fall.

Amid the changes, O’Brien said that many things about “Conan” would stay the same: He still plans to include a monologue and will likely have one celebrity guest a night. “It’s not going to be a whole new Conan with a shaved head and an eye patch and a falcon on his shoulder,” he said.

TBS did not say how it would fill the soon-to-be-vacant 11:30 p.m. slot.