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Here's Why Conan O'Brien Isn't On Xbox Live

I'm With Xbox CocoJust about this time last year when Conan O'Brien was a free agent of sorts after splitting from NBC and The Tonight Show, word got out that Microsoft was making a play for the late night star to move his show (and fan base) over to Xbox Live to produce some sort of talk show program that would be exclusive to the online service.  The deal didn't happen and Conan went on to start a new show at TBS, but we never really knew much more than that.  Now Gamasutra's Chris Morris has cracked the case thanks to O'Brien's long-time executive producer, Jeff Ross.  Here's why the Xbox Live deal broke down in the end:

The talks never went too far, but they did happen. One of the big concerns Coco & Co. had was that the plans for original content were still in the very early stages. The lack of a clear vision and the fact that it likely wouldn't launch in a timely fashion were a stumbling block that was hard to overcome.

"The Xbox thing - a lot of the conversations were 'well, it's a show, but it's not a show and there are no breaks, but maybe there are breaks and it's not 60 minutes, it's this' and nobody really knew what it was," he said.

"So it was really going to be a leap of faith to jump in with these guys and figure something out which we didn't know. Plus there were 100 people who were out of jobs and that didn't bode well for that."

Someday someone is going to figure out how to break into the business of creating original exclusive programming for Xbox Live or Sony's PlayStation Network or whatever other "walled garden" gaming service is out there, but I'm glad it wasn't Conan O'Brien.  O'Brien has too many years as a traditional host behind him and I wouldn't want to see him adapt his style for a formless online program.  XBL, PSN, etc. need to branch out with a rising star who isn't already a television institution with a set of expectations surrounding him.  Microsoft was right on track in aiming to hire someone with O'Brien's respectability, however.  Whatever the future of gaming service entertainment programming may be, it isn't the hokey reality format broached by Sony's The Tester.  The gaming service talk show host of the future needs to have a gamer-friendly cache while also being able to entertain and engage across other topics.  Unfortuatately, that style doesn't seem to play well with the marketing machine of our modern world.