“I can’t think of anything better than doing my show with Conan as my lead-in. It’s the beginning of a new era in late-night comedy,” Lopez said in a statement released by TBS. Lopez picked up the phone to speak with O’Brien immediately after speaking with Steve Koonin. With his own show just a few months old Lopez agreed to have “Lopez Tonight” pushed back an hour.
Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks, pitched Lopez on the idea that both he and O’Brien were in their 40s and appealed to a young demographic, while Leno and David Letterman were older and played to an older crowd. Within days of the Lopez phone call, a deal was struck. “In the 90 hours we had to do this, we didn’t get into that,” Koonin said of keeping O’Brien’s staff from his previous show. He declined to reveal the budget for the show. “They told us what they needed to make the show, and we said, ‘Let’s go make the show.'”
Having the two comedians on the same page about their show time slots can only help the network dodge any conflicts in the future. NBC created a huge controversy by inviting Jay Leno back into his old time slot for a special half hour show. The new time slot would push Conan’s tonight show into an unprecedented time and ignited a dramatic and often funny controversy that left NBC with a public relations black eye.