In the final months of his 16-year tenure at NBC, Conan O'Brien learned a valuable lesson about corporate politics: Don't get in the way of people with more clout than you. Now he's heading to a place where he'll unquestionably be the biggest dog on the block.

TBS, a cable network owned by Time Warner (TWX), announced Monday that it will create a new late-night show for O'Brien, who left The Tonight Show in January after NBC told him it was giving the 11:30 p.m. time slot back to Jay Leno. The new show is set to air four nights a week, Mondays through Thursdays at 11 p.m., beginning in November -- two months after O'Brien's non-compete agreement with NBC expires.

The news comes as more than a little bit of a surprise. While O'Brien has been fairly public about wanting to return to television as quickly as possible, most signs pointed to him landing at Fox, which is the only major broadcast network without a late-night franchise. But while that would surely have provided O'Brien with a larger platform, at least initially, the logistics were tricky: Fox's affiliate stations mostly air syndicated reruns at that hour that would be expensive to give up.


TBS, the third most watched cable network in prime time after USA and Fox News, had no such hangups. Of course, it already has an 11 p.m. show, hosted by comedian George Lopez. But, according to the network, Lopez himself personally urged O'Brien to sign with TBS, even though it means Lopez Tonight will get bumped back until midnight. That Lopez was enthusiastic about the move is important; otherwise, O'Brien could hardly allow himself to displace a lesser comedian's show after the way he slammed NBC for letting Leno do the same to him.

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