After ceding his 11 p.m. time slot to Conan O’Brien, comedian George Lopez is facing a far more significant indignity: cancelation. TBS on Wednesday confirmed that it has pulled the plug on Lopez Tonight, effective, well, immediately. Thursday’s episode will be the last.
In a statement issued by the network, a spokesperson characterized the decision to kill Lopez’ show as “difficult.” After announcing that a third season of Lopez Tonight is not in the cards, TBS went on to praise the comic. “We are proud to have partnered with George Lopez, who is an immensely talented comedian and entertainer.”
TBS’ first foray into late-night talk, Lopez Tonight bowed in the 11 p.m. slot on November 9, 2009. His first guests were Kobe Bryant, Eva Longoria and Carlos Santana. The show held its own in the hour, but when Conan O’Brien signed on to produce and host TBS’ late-night tentpole in April 2010, Lopez agreed to take one for the team and move his show to the witching hour.
The following month, during Turner’s 2010-11 upfront presentation in New York, Lopez joked about the dynamics of the pairing, saying, “fifty years ago, a redhead and a Latino made TV history. We’re a same-sex Desi and Lucy.”
Ultimately, the shift to midnight ate into Lopez’ audience. According to Nielsen ratings data, Lopez Tonight’s deliveries plummeted 40 percent in his second season, falling from an average nightly draw of 910,000 nightly viewers in the 11 p.m. slot to 543,000 at midnight. Since bowing on November 8, 2010, Conan has averaged approximately 1.03 million live-plus-same-day viewers, an improvement of just 13 percent from what Lopez drew in his first season at TBS.
Sources familiar with the financial demands of Lopez’ show said the cost of producing the program played a significant role in TBS’ decision to cancel it. Lopez’ hosting duties earned him $3.5 million per year, putting him at the bottom of the late-night earnings totem pole alongside Chelsea Lately producer/host Chelsea Handler.
O’Brien draws a salary of $10 million, but his production company, Conaco, also owns the full rights to his TBS show.