question of the day: What should Conan O’Brien do next?

We haven’t heard much from Conan O’Brien since NBC unceremoniously booted him from The Tonight Show after Jay Leno’s experiment with primetime chat flopped. But now, with the networks in the final throes of lining up next fall’s programming schedules, he’s back in the spotlight, if only a small one. The USA Today blog Technology Live says:

O’Brien’s fate will be a top-of-mind question in the TV business for the next few weeks. The comic begins a live performance tour tonight, which will keep him in the public eye as he negotiates with Fox about possibly returning to TV this fall with a show that might air weeknights at 11:00 p.m. The network will present its fall TV programming shows to advertisers on May 17.

The decision isn’t just up to Fox, though. Its local affiliates would have to agree to dump the late-night shows that they’ve licensed — frequently re-runs of The Simpsons and Seinfeld -– to make room for O’Brien. Stations that made long-term deals to syndicate the sitcoms would probably just have to absorb their losses.

Oh, and Fox apparently would want its affiliates to cough up part of the cost of producing an O’Brien show, which could become a factor in battles between cable and satellite providers on the one side and the network on the other, the likes of which we saw with ABC and Cablevision last month.

SFGate is reporting that:

Fox is still coaxing its affiliates into letting Conan O’Brien start a late night franchise on the network.

So while executives and station managers waffle on the ousted host, Conan’s team of negotiators are exploring their options at other networks including Starz and Showtime.

I’m starting to wonder if O’Brien and his people shouldn’t try to reinvent the talk show with the 21st century. Why not go online only? Why not a series of daily sketches released on YouTube? Is that such a crazy notion for someone with his devoted following?

What should Conan O’Brien do next?

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