Coco Opens in Oregon

Conan O’Brien begins his “LegallyProhibited From Being Funny on Television Tour” tonight in Eugene, OR. The show sold out quickly:

Conan O’Brien’s Eugene stand-up show April 12 sold out in just a matter of hours, a Hult Center spokeswoman said Thursday.

Conan is kicking off his U.S. tour in Eugene.

Libby Hightower with the Hult Center said her and her coworkers were as surprised as many Eugenians when they learned Conan would play here.

“I think most of us around here were going ‘really?'” she said.

A promoter for the show said they didn’t use any paid promotion to get publicity. Instead, they relied solely of word-of-mouth and Twitter.

Interesting: they used only Twitter to promote it, where he has more than 818,000 followers, not to mention over 986,000 fans on Facebook. Great twitpic this morning.

Negotiations with Fox are ongoing, with progress being made, via The Hollywood Reporter

When Conan O’Brien takes the stage Monday to kick off his U.S. comedy tour, the most important critics to impress will be the owners of Fox stations.

Talks between Fox and O’Brien’s reps have made significant progress in recent days toward a deal that would bring the late-night host back to broadcast TV. But affiliate concerns about airing the new venture threaten to derail any agreement.

Fox entertainment chairman Peter Rice and entertainment president Kevin Reilly have been in regular discussions with O’Brien’s camp, led by agent Rick Rosen, manager Gavin Polone and lawyer Leigh Brecheen, including at least one face-to-face meeting on the Fox lot over the past two weeks.

While such issues as O’Brien’s specific compensation and ownership of a new show are still being discussed, the host has agreed to key concessions, including lowering his salary and slashing production costs.

“It will be leaner and meaner,” a source close to the negotiation said.

But the host won’t commit to Fox unless the network can guarantee that stations will air his show in all or nearly all of the country.

And as of now, that’s far from a done deal. Some Fox affiliates are less enthusiastic about taking on O’Brien’s show. Airing O’Brien’s show means affiliates have to eat the cost of any sitcoms or other syndicated programs already booked for the late-night slot while already kicking up a retransmission fee to carry the network.

“The question is how much can one network ask of its affiliates?” an insider said.

Dissension on the Fox side is worrying negotiators that a deal might not be complete in time for the network’s upfront presentation to advertisers on May 17, if it happens at all. Without clearing the show nationwide, O’Brien and Fox would risk an uphill battle on several fronts. The show would generate lower national ratings and might fight the perception of having distribution issues, which would increase the risk of stations abandoning the format. Affiliate threats to stop airing NBC’s “The Jay Leno Show” was a key factor in the network’s decision to kill the show and return Leno to late-night.

For this reason, O’Brien’s team is still looking at alternative options, declining to enter exclusive negotiations with Fox. That said, Fox and O’Brien have cleared several points of agreement.

Fox and O’Brien want the show to air on Fox stations from 11 p.m.-midnight, which would give it a 35-minute jump on NBC’s “Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman.”

The budget for the new show would be considerably less than O’Brien’s most recent stint on NBC, getting the host back to his scrappy roots after trying to fit the more bloated “Tonight Show.” O’Brien’s “Tonight” cost about $90 million a year — including O’Brien’s $12 million salary — but Fox is aiming to pay less than $60 million for the new show.

O’Brien’s show would likely be based in Los Angeles. Though some critics felt NBC mistakenly moved O’Brien from New York to L.A. when he took over “Tonight,” the host has not discussed with Fox the possibility of moving back. Keeping the show in L.A. would make it easier to book Hollywood talent.

There are, however, still several open issues. O’Brien wants ownership of his new program, like David Letterman, whose Worldwide Pants owns “Late Show.”  But Fox would prefer to keep O’Brien as a highly paid employee, similar to NBC’s relationship with Leno on “Tonight.”

Both sides remain hopeful that a deal will be struck, but the sense is that the affiliates now hold the keys to making that happen.

The comedy tour, which launches Monday night in Eugene, Ore., might help matters. O’Brien will generate plenty of headlines in the coming weeks, which should help keep his profile strong as his team tries to lock down a deal. Plus, starting Monday night, local station owners get a chance to sample O’Brien’s act live in person.

Excellent promotional plan by Team Coco.

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Vote for Conan

Gotta love Conan’s statement:

People of Earth:

In the last few days, I’ve been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I’ve been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I’ve been absurdly lucky. That said, I’ve been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.

Yours,

Conan

The Consumerist is calling for an EECB (executive e-mail carpet bomb), publishing their particulars…

JOHN.ECK@nbc.com, Jeff.Gaspin@nbc.com, JEFF.ZUCKER@nbc.com, jeff.zucker@nbcuni.com, STEVE.CAPUS@nbc.com, ALLISON.GOLLUST@nbc.com, PAULA.MADISON@nbc.com, CORY.SHIELDS@nbc.com, JOHN.WALLACE@nbc.com, David.Verdi@nbc.com, Jeff.Zucker@nbc.com, Bob.Wright@nbc.com, LYNN.CALPETER@nbc.com, DICK.EBERSOL@nbc.com, MARK.HOFFMAN@nbc.com, MICHAEL.PILOT@nbc.com, david.verdi@nbc.com, MARC.CHINI@nbcuni.com, Alyssa.Corcoran@nbcuni.com, MICHAEL.BASS@nbcuni.com, MICHAEL.PILOT@nbcuni.com, Ron.Lamprecht@nbcuni.com

You can also call Jeff Zucker, President and CEO of NBC Universal at 212-664-2830.

Personally, I think Conan’s show at 12:30 was more fun to watch, so I prefer tuning in to Letterman. Conan — a brilliant comic — needs more time to “find his groove,” as Leno did before him.