Fox Prez: Taking Conan ‘Not an Easy Decision’

Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

The thunderous announcement made Tuesday by Conan O’Brien, in which he took a stand and rejected NBC’s proposed late-night deal, has consumed entertainment industry headlines.

“I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction,” a disappointed O’Brien said of the network’s plan to push back ‘The Tonight Show‘ ’til after midnight, which he believes will “seriously damage” the franchise.

Insiders state the obvious, that O’Brien feels mistreated.

There’s been speculation that NBC’s red-headed step-child may go to another network, namely Fox, but O’Brien reveals in his statement that he currently has no other offer and has “no idea what happens next.”

Two of the biggest TV stories of the year are now both in Fox’s sandbox, and Fancast spoke with Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly Monday night about the possibility of gaining Conan O’Brien and the ramifications of losing Simon Cowell.

Reilly makes it clear the network would consider getting back into the late-night game.

“For all its success, Fox has stubbed its toe a few times in late night. If we can get back in the game in a quality way, absolutely we would,” Reilly tells me.

But it’s not as easy as Conan telling NBC to take this time slot and shove it.

“It’s really going to come down to his decision — then we can entertain it,” says Reilly.

“But there are a host of legal and financial issues that make it not an easy decision. We do have affiliate issues as well,” Reilly admits. “Creatively, it’s an easy decision for me. Conan’s a major talent, and it would be a good fit, I think.”

“I think that’s why people are assuming it’s a done deal,” Reilly adds. “Unfortunately it’s not.”

As for the other remote-rocking news in TV land this week, Reilly says he’s not worried about losing powerhouse Simon Cowell after this season of ‘American Idol.’

Many believe this could signal the end of the series.

Reilly, however, prefers to think he may just have a double threat in his line-up, once Cowell debuts ‘The X-Factor’ in 2011. It’s not as if Simon is disappearing, after all; he’s launching another potentially behemoth brand for the network (if the U.K. version’s success is any factor), so Fox still wins.

“Are the other guys popping champagne bottles right now? I don’t think so,” smiles Reilly. “They may have just inherited TWO headaches.”

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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