Peter Kafka

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Conan O’Brien Explains TV’s New Rules (Video)

The Conan O’Brien saga — in which the talk-show host got “The Tonight Show” gig, lost the gig, discovered a whole new legion of Web-savvy fans and then got Web religion himself — is now a couple years old.

So it’s a good time to get some perspective on what he learned during the experience, and how he deals with the Web at his newish job at Turner’s TBS.

In some ways, O’Brien told fellow Time Warner employee Piers Morgan at the cable industry’s annual convention yesterday, things haven’t changed that much: In an ideal world, he’d like people to watch his show live, when it airs.

But he also knows it doesn’t work that way, at all. And he’s okay with that, and he’s learned to embrace YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, etc.:

When I got started in the business in ’93, the obsesssion was: Never give anything away. Don’t tell anybody … you want it to be a surprise when they watch the show. You want to tease them, but get them to watch the show.

And what we have found is true is that this is a different generation. It works differently now. You can show them exactly what Will Ferrell did [on O'Brien's show], and get it out there, so there’s no “surprise” …

The days of, “I only want people to experience me at 11, on TBS” — those days are over. The audience is too fragmented, they’re too distracted, and a whole generation is growing up that doesn’t watch television that way.

You can watch the entire 22-minute interview, which moves along quite quickly, below. Thanks to the NCTA for the video.


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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle