Conan O’Brien Joins TBS, Enters The Harsh World Of Cable

It’s more than a little poetic that Conan O’Brien’s new show will premiere on TBS in November (rather than on Fox, where everybody figured he’d end up). Though O’Brien has spent the better part of his adult life working in television, most of it has been on network TV (“Saturday Night Live,” “The Simpsons,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and “The Tonight Show”). But he actually got his start on cable writing for the short-lived HBO series “Not Necessarily the News,” a faux-news show that was a clear precursor to “The Daily Show.”

Speaking of Jon Stewart, he (along with Stephen Colbert) represent O’Brien’s biggest competition on the late nigh cable landscape. While there are a finite number of network choices (most of which are talk shows in the style of “The Tonight Show”), cable is a whole different beast with a variety of original and syndicated programming that O’Brien will have to top if he is going to make his mark on television again and cement TBS as a late night player (the recently-launched “Lopez Tonight” has snagged good numbers for the network).

So who will Conan be going head-to-head with when his show premieres at 11 p.m. in November? Let’s take a look at his biggest opponents.

“The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” Comedy Central
Being a fan of intellectual comedy used to be easy, as you could watch “The Daily Show” at 11, then watch your tape-delayed episode of “The Late Show with David Letterman” until “Late Night with Conan O’Brien came on at 12:30. Now O’Brien will have to go head-to-head with his audience’s other favorite comedians. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have both established themselves as go-to destinations for biting satire and madcap sketches (and Stewart has even evolved into a pretty good interviewer). Will the thought of new Masturbating Bear sketches and fresh insults from Triumph the Insult Comic Dog be enough to draw fans away from Stewart and Colbert?

“Chelsea Lately,” E!
Chelsea Handler has built herself into her own cottage industry, penning confessional best-sellers and hosting the loosest talk show on television. Handler’s sense of comedy isn’t as sharp as O’Brien’s, but she does have a knack for drawing out famous people and getting them to talk about themselves in unusual ways.

“Sportscenter,” ESPN
Laugh if you must, but for a lot of people, 11 p.m. means an automatic shift to ESPN to see just how bad the Mets lost that night. O’Brien obviously offers a completely different type of entertainment, but can he break that segment of his audience out of that routine?

Adult Swim, Cartoon Network
While not a ratings juggernaut, O’Brien does share an audience with the likes of “Robot Chicken,” “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and reruns of “Family Guy.” Again, O’Brien will be offering a different type of show, but the draw of a new episode of “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” may cut into O’Brien’s audience.

“Law & Order” reruns, every other network
Because sometimes the “chun-chun!” of justice is too great a siren call to ignore.

What do you think of Conan’s move to TBS? Let us know in the comments!