TBS Cancels 'Lopez Tonight' After Ratings Dwindle

Show Moved to Midnight Last Year to Accommodate New 'Conan'

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George Lopez
George Lopez

Bedtime has arrived for "Lopez Tonight."

Less than a year after agreeing to take a later time slot on TBS to accommodate the network's deal for an 11 p.m. program featuring Conan O' Brien, George Lopez has been told his program, "Lopez Tonight," is being canceled, and that Thursday night's program will be his last.

"TBS has reached the difficult decision not to order a third season of Lopez Tonight," the Time Warner network said in a terse statement. "We are proud to have partnered with George Lopez, who is an immensely talented comedian and entertainer. TBS has valued its partnership with George and appreciates all of his work on behalf of the network, both on and off the air."

The show has seen its ratings fall in the recent past, said Billie Gold, VP-director of programming research at Aegis Group's Carat USA. Indeed, she suggested, reruns of "My Boys" and "Neighbors From Hell," two TBS late-night comedy entries that aired a year ago before "Lopez" began its run in the 12 a.m. hour, got the same or better ratings -- both overall and among viewers aged 18 to 49 -- than "Lopez" is getting currently. In recent weeks, she added, "Lopez Tonight" has begun to lose a greater percentage of the audience fed into it by "Conan," which airs at 11 p.m.

"Lopez Tonight" saw total "live plus seven" viewers -- those who watch within a week -- fall 40% between its first and second seasons through Aug. 4, according to Nielsen. Adults between 18 and 34 declined 28% on a "live plus seven" basis while adults 18 to 49 fell 34%.

"The ratings just weren't warranting what was being spent on the show," Ms. Gold said. Ratings for Mr. O' Brien's program have been drifting downward as well, she added, as buzz on the show quieted since its debut last fall.

A person familiar with the situation said the move was "truly a business decision," and not related to any issues with production or talent. "This was a very expensive show to do, and you look at the ratings , it didn't make sense," this person said.

Cancellation of the program shows how carefully cable networks must manage original programming as they seek to woo viewers and advertisers from their broadcast rivals. When it debuted in November 2009, "Lopez" represented one facet of a large-scale effort by Time Warner 's Turner cable unit to offer more high-quality programming across the schedule that advertisers could use to reach desirable audiences at an efficient rate.

Since that time, Turner has also added Mr. O' Brien to its ranks as well as embarked on a joint venture with CBS Corp. to run the vaunted NCAA men's basketball championship on CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV.

But ambition can prove expensive, and Turner's fiscal management of its programming assets has occasionally surfaced publicly. TNT recently canceled the critically praised drama "Men of a Certain Age," citing business concerns. Likewise, TNT last season pared the cast of the critically acclaimed cop drama "Southland," itself acquired after NBC canceled the program.

In 2010, its first full year on the air, "Lopez Tonight" generated about $50.1 million in ad revenue for TBS, according to data from Kantar. In the first three months of 2011, the program had attracted about $7.6 million. The top five advertisers in "Lopez" in the first three months of this year were 1-800-CONTACTS, Comcast Corp., AT&T, State Farm and Berkshire Hathaway, according to Kantar. The program's top five advertisers in the same time period last year included Procter & Gamble, Berkshire Hathaway, Hershey, H&R Block and Comcast.

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