It’s been a long, strange journey into the (late) night, but the moment we’ve been waiting for has finally arrived: Conan O’Brien is exiting The Tonight Show, and hastily. Saturday morning at 12:35 am (yes, this Saturday), Conan will bid adieu to NBC and head out for greener pastures…albeit $40 million richer to ease the burden of the inglorious exit (as well as allowing the network to sweep this controversy under the rug as quickly as possible).
The news was first broken by TheWrap.com‘s Josef Adalian early this morning, which has been confirmed by Conan’s manager, Gavin Polone. Polone told TheWrap, “In the end, Conan was appreciative of the steps NBC made to take care of his staff and crew and decided to supplement the severance they were getting out of his own pocket…Now he just wants to get back on the air as quickly as possible.”
Is this a hint at Conan’s rumored talks with Fox network? And we’re still waiting to hear from Jay’s team or NBC’s Jeff Zucker on an official statement. Stay tuned as more coverage develops.
Huffington Post: Ousted Editor & Publisher editor Greg Mitchellrecounts his lay off. Since he was tossed out with senior editor Joe Strupp, “That meant that the magazine would lose the two staffers who had been responsible for roughly 80 percent of the magazine’s news-making and traffic-driving ‘scoops’ over the past 11 years — at a time when Web impact needs to be expanded,” Mitchell writes. “I wish my salary was so high that cost-cutting alone would explain it.”
New York Times: Negotiations over Conan O’Brien‘s buyout with NBC are being held up as the late night host tries to negotiate better severance deals for his soon-to-be-unemployed staff.
NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker made an appearance last night on “Charlie Rose,” for a 30-minute interview that mainly focused on the company’s late night network TV debacle.
Opening the interview, Charlie Rose described NBC as “in shambles” five years after Zucker was promoted from executive producer at NBC News. Zucker took issue with that description:
“I think that’s a little unfair to the fantastic folks who work at NBC. The fact is, NBC Entertainment has had a rough run the last five years. There’s no question about it. We haven’t done well enough…And we have to do better. And we have to find bigger, broader, better shows. And the truth is, that really has defined NBC and NBC Universal and I think that’s what so unfortunate for the 30,000 employees who work at NBC Universal…the fact that our failure to do better at NBC Entertainment has unfortunately defined us.”
Zucker went on to say that while NBC Entertainment is only responsible for about five percent of NBC Universal’s bottom line, it is also responsible for about “95 percent of our perception.”
Still, although he admitted NBC Entertainment could have done better programming in recent years, Zucker said he had no regrets about the whole Conan O’Brien-Jay Leno situation. He explained that had NBC not offered O’Brien the chance to take over the “Tonight Show” in 2004, he would have left the network then. And the same holds true for Leno last year, when they developed the plan to move him to prime time.
Zucker even described the idea of moving Leno to a half-hour show at 11:35 p.m. as a way to help O’Brien boost his own ratings, clearly not agreeing with O’Brien’s belief that such a move would mean certain death for the “Tonight Show” franchise.
“Leadership is about taking chances and taking risks,” he told Rose. “And also leadership is about acknowledging when they don’t work.”
Admitting the half-hour Leno show was “not perfect for anyone,” Zucker said he also had hoped that O’Brien would agree. “Not everything is going to work,” he concluded. “If we don’t try to do things differently, if we don’t try to take chances, then we know what the results of the status quo will be. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t.”
Conan O’Brien may be close to signing a $40 million buyout that will allow him to walk away from NBC after more than a week of scheduling drama, but Jay Leno, the once and future host of the “Tonight Show” is now the one going on the defensive.
During his prime time show last night, Leno took a moment to tell his side of the story. Although he agreed to retire five years ago, Leno said NBC would not let him out of his contract once it was time for him to step down from the “Tonight Show.” They pushed him to prime time even though he thought it was a bad idea, and he went along with the plan in order to save the jobs of the 175 people who make up his staff. Leno said NBC guaranteed him two years on the air at prime time, promising him that although the show would “get killed” during the first few months up against original programming like “CSI,” it would bounce back during the spring and summer rerun season.
“Four months go by, we don’t make it,” Leno said. “Now meanwhile, Conan’s show during the summer when we were not on was not doing well. The great hope was that we would help him. Well, we didn’t help him.”
When NBC decided to cancel Leno’s prime time show, he said he again asked to be let out of his contract. NBC refused, claiming he was still a valuable asset to the company. “How valuable could I be?” Leno asked last night. “You’ve fired me twice.”
Funny, then, how he’s the one — along with his staff — who still has a job at the end of all this. What will happen to O’Brien and his staff, which is surely just as large as Leno’s?
After the jump, Conan auctions off “Tonight Show” swag, mocking NBC all the way, despite a reported gag order that went along with his buyout.
Can you believe it: this time last week we were going about our Friday afternoon business, completely unaware that the following week would see the dramatic exit of Conan O’Brien from NBC‘s “Tonight Show.”
After a week of insult-slinging from their respective shows, Jay Leno and O’Brien had seemingly hit an impasse in NBC’s resolution to reinstate Leno to the 11:35 slot and push O’Brien back till 12:05. But today brings some light at the end of the tunnel: The Daily Beast reports that O’Brien will be leaving NBC, (though there are conflicting reports about when he’ll actually be leaving). He’s also going to reportedly receive an undisclosed large lump sum to ease the pain of his departure.
Yes, we were one of the many who tuned in last night to watch the “Tonight Show” to see just what Conan O’Brien would say. Would he reveal his next move? Say goodbye? Or just continue to bash the network that was so publicly screwing him over?
O’Brien took option three, and although we didn’t think it was very funny — it was more sad — he took pot shots at NBC all night long. Our favorite bit is in the video above, where O’Brien gets some help from “Deal or No Deal” host Howie Mandel as he continues to suss out his options.
Between making a public statement accusing NBC of trying to destroy the “Tonight Show” brand and publicly mocking his bosses, O’Brien is doing something unheard of in Hollywood: biting the hand that’s feeding him. But while he may be distancing himself from his corporate bosses, O’Brien is gathering up fans. All of the goodwill and support he’s built up over the past few days will ensure that where ever he ends up, fans will follow.
For a more definitive representation about how people are feeling about O’Brien today, let’s turn to Twitter. Research company Crimson Hexagon has compiled a survey of people’s sentiment towards O’Brien on the microblogging site. They found that only 22 percent of the reaction to the NBC shake up on Twitter was anti-Conan, with the rest either showing respect, pity or love for the host and anger toward the network.
After the jump, graphical representation of Crimson Hexagon’s data
Since last week, NBC‘s plans to shuffle its late night line-up has relied on Conan O’Brien, the current host of the “Tonight Show.” If he agreed to quietly accept the move — basically a demotion — from 11:35 p.m. to 12:05 p.m., then NBC could seemingly keep all its late night hosts, Jay Leno, Jimmy Fallon and O’Brien.
But he wasn’t going to go so quietly. On his show, O’Brien has been tough on the network in the last few days, so it came as no surprise when he issued a statement today stating he did not intend to move to 12:05 a.m. That means NBC can either agree to keep the “Tonight Show” with O’Brien as host at 11:35 p.m., or see him walk away from the network. However, O’Brien says he has no offer from another network, yet:
“There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.”
O’Brien has given NBC an ultimatum: uphold the contract the net offered him six years ago and keep him as host of the “Tonight Show,” or bring Leno back to his old slot. Bringing Leno back isn’t a sure-thing ratings wise. Either way, NBC is taking a gamble. So which host does the network want to keep the most, and which one will they kick to the curb? If we were O’Brien, we’d start getting those other offers fleshed out.
The group would also have been remiss if it didn’t talk about the biggest media story of the week: the Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien late night shake-up at NBC. After revealing what she thought Conan should do, Amanda went on to offer up some predictions for the magazine and newspaper industry in 2010, which included a focus on e-readers and tablets, citizen journalism and non-profit journalism organizations.
You can listen to all the past podcasts at BlogTalkRadio.com/mediabistro and call in at 646-929-0321.
The best part about the Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien drama over at NBC is the great comedy that every late night host is getting out of the situation. Conan is getting particularly ballsy.
During his monologue last night, O’Brien went through a list of his “options” now that it seems like a foregone conclusion that Leno is moving back to 11:35 p.m. Among O’Brien’s options? “Star in a Lifetime original movie about a woman trapped in an abusive relationship with her network” and “leave television altogether, and work in a classier business with better people, like hardcore porn.” Ouch.
The controversy has such good comedic value, even the late night hosts on other networks are getting in to the fray. Last night, David Letterman spent a few minutes offering “advice” to NBC, the featured a Top Ten list: “Top Ten Signs There’s Trouble At NBC.”
Back in September, when “The Jay Leno Show” debuted on NBC at 10 p.m., a Time magazine cover line declared: “Jay Leno is The Future of Television. Seriously!” If that’s true, it looks like NBC no longer believes that future belongs in primetime.
After rumors started circulating last week that NBC was mulling moving Leno back to his old 11:35 p.m. slot, NBC Universal entertainment chair Jeff Gaspinconfirmed over the weekend that “The Jay Leno Show” will end next month before the network starts airing coverage of the Olympics. Gaspin said he hopes to move Leno to back to 11:35 p.m., pushing Conan O’Brien and “The Tonight Show” to a 12:05 a.m. start.
Although that’s what the network wants, it remains to be seen if O’Brien will agree to the change or leave NBC for greener pastures at another network like Fox. We wouldn’t blame him, and there’s already news that he’s not happy about NBC’s moves. An exclusive report today in The New York Post, which is owned by the same parent as Fox, said O’Brien was “ready to fly the coop.”
It also remains to be seen whether viewers will welcome the change, which has been motivated by NBC affiliate stations’ complaints that the low-rated “Leno Show” was not a strong enough lead-in to their local news shows. Since NBC put its support behind Leno this year, it hasn’t developed any scripted shows for its 10 p.m. slot, which is usually populated by one-hour dramas. What will the network put there once Leno leaves?