Conan on Variety Cover

Shattering any doubt about the importance of podcasting for Hollywood, the entertainment trade Variety has just put the medium on the cover with one of its most successful TV-turned-podcast hosts. It also reports cover boy Conan O’Brien’s production company, Conaco, has just signed a “mid-seven figure” co-production and distribution deal with Stitcher/Midroll Media to keep his podcast Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend going for at least another two years with a minimum of 72 episodes included in the pact. Variety also reports that O’Brien’s longtime sidekick Andy Richter will also be getting his own spin-off podcast interview show.

“Podcasting has been a big business success — a brand success – and you always feel hokey even saying that,” O’Brien told Variety. “It’s not like everyone lights up our cigars and we’ve pulled off some caper. It’s funny because I never foresaw any of it.” Ironically, O’Brien wasn’t sure about the medium when he first began recording test episodes with producer and co-host Matt Gourley. O’Brien’s podcasting turn reportedly happened after conducting an interview with actor Ben Stiller who revealed during their chat that he was insecure about his work. “When he left the room, I thought that’s the best conversation that Ben and I have ever had,” O’Brien told Variety. “The title of the podcast was meant to be just kind of a joke, but I swear to God, I’m getting closer to people. It’s been a gift.”

Stitcher/Midroll Media has made no secret of its happiness with O’Brien’s show. The company’s biggest podcast success during the second quarter was a May episode that featured a rare interview with radio personality Howard Stern. It was downloaded 1.4 million times, according to Tomlin.

One reason O’Brien has been so interested in podcasting is that he sees the role of late-night talk shows waning. It’s why his new four-year deal with TBS includes more of a digital component, dovetailing with his podcast effort. “It used to be late-night shows were the last thing people saw and Johnny Carson was putting the nation to bed at night and that was this titanic responsibility,” he told Variety. “That’s not what these shows are anymore and you can’t waste time being nostalgic about it.”