I am a long time fan of late night television and wanted to get David Letterman as our graduation speaker (we had Tip O’Neill). I loved Johnny Carson and watched him religiously. His retirement was the end of an era, Jay Leno is fine but he is no Johnny Carson. I did love Wynton Marsalis and Kevin Eubanks though. Late night television wars heated up after Johnny’s retirement and I usually flipped back and forth between David and Jay most nights. I was happy to hear Conan was tapped to take over The Tonight Show, he is quirky, clever and about my age. I get his humor and like to see people who work hard and pay their dues succeed.

I watched Conan ‘s Tonight Show and felt he was doing a good job before he was unceremoniously fired. I have to admit it made me think less of Jay and NBC to see how they handled the situation. I respected Conan’s position, he made a deal and expected them to keep it and he was loyal to his staff and fans until the bitter end, taking the high road with his reputation intact. I admired how he took his show on the road over the summer and leveraged social media to stay connected to his audience. I was so happy for him when his deal with TBS was announced and thought George Lopez and the executives there all came out looking strong. I never watched TBS before but found out which number it was on my cable box so I could tune in immediately when the new show launched in the fall.

Conan came out of the block with a great start, beating Jay and Dave by over one million viewers. His jokes were funny and I realized how much his voice had been missed over the long break. He made fun of himself and we all laughed with him. Like so many of us, he was a victim of political infighting and the tough new economy but he picked himself up and dusted himself off and got right back in the saddle leaner, meaner and funnier than before. I do miss Max Weinberg though I must admit. He oozes cool and was great for the show.

The audience stuck with him so the sponsors came with Conan in droves. Diet Coke ran lots of ads as did AT&T, 20th Century Fox, and the Chevrolet division of General Motors. Conan has passionate followers and these blue chip advertisers found a great opportunity to tap into that momentum. Conan is a proven brand and a great talent. He gave the basic cable station a way to legitimately compete with the networks. TBS is now charging the same rates for Conan that NBC gets for Jay and CBS for Dave. TBS is now the #1 cable channel for the coveted 18-34 market. The 11pm news is no longer appointment television, we now get our news all day long when we open our web browsers and use our smart phones. TBS took a risk that is paying off in spades. Conan took a risk leaving NBC without a job lined up, but like others who are thriving in this tough period in the economy, Conan has taught us many lessons:

Stay close to your core customer
Resilience is key in the new economy
Loyalty to your team never goes out of style
Authenticity trumps politics, age and experience

As Dr. Seuss said “be who you are and say what you think because those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter!”

Author's Bio: 

Paige Arnof-Fenn is the founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls (www.mavensandmoguls.com), a global marketing strategy consulting firm whose clients range from early stage start-up to Fortune 500 companies including Colgate, Virgin and The New York Times Company.