NBC’s late-nightmare is over. The network announced Thursday (Jan. 21) that Conan O’Brien will leave “The Tonight Show” and NBC.
O’Brien is expected to tape his last “Tonight” on Friday (Jan. 22).
NBC and O’Brien agreed to a $45 million deal wherein Conan receives $33 million under the condition that he not return to television for eight months.
There is also no provision that says his $33 million will go down by the amount of his new television deal, as was previously speculated. The rest of the $45 million will go toward the severance package for his “Tonight Show” staff members. Jay Leno will return to hosting “The Tonight Show” after the Winter Olympics; NBC hasn’t said yet what will fill the spot between Friday and the start of the Games.
The official deal comes after almost two weeks of sturm und drang about the future of O’Brien and Leno, and to at least some degree of the network as a whole. NBC said Sunday, Jan. 10 that the prime-time “Jay Leno Show,” which had pulled weak ratings and damaged affiliates’ local news numbers, would end, and network chairman Jeff Gaspin floated a plan to give Leno a half-hour show at 11:35 p.m., pushing “The Tonight Show” to just after midnight and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” to 1 a.m.
Two days later, however, O’Brien released a statement saying he didn’t want to move to midnight. “I sincerely believe that delaying ‘The Tonight Show’ into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting,” he said. “‘The Tonight Show’ at 12:05 simply isn’t ‘The Tonight Show.'”
That kicked off a round of sniping that played out in the two hosts’ monologues — as well as those of David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel and Craig Ferguson — intense negotiations and lots of reports about when O’Brien would be doing his last show.
Negotiations dragged on as NBC and O’Brien’s camp hammered out details, with reports of “it’ll be done tomorrow” trickling out for almost a week.
Now it’s done and Conan O’Brien will receive $33 million for seven months’ work. Not a bad deal, though we’d wager he still feels pretty raw about the whole thing.
Photo credit: NBC