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Jay Leno to Return to ‘Tonight Show;’ Conan O’Brien Free to Go

The Washington Post, and other publications, report NBC is prepared to return Jay Leno to “The Tonight Show” while allowing Conan O’Brien to leave NBC with the freedom to work for another network. Last night in a promo, O’Brien joked the show could be the final Thursday episode and, later in his monologue, that NBC was prepared to keep him off the air for “3 years” if he didn’t agree to their terms. WaPo’s Lisa de Moraes writes:

But it also appears the network intends to kick Conan as he walks out the door. In an interview with the New York Times, NBC Universal Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said Leno was being returned to late night because of “an astounding failure by Conan,” ratings-wise, on “The Tonight Show.”

Last night, O’Brien also talked about some other offers he’s gotten over the last few days, including this:

More: New York Times – Executives Leap to Leno’s Defense

Related: From Andrew Sullivan‘s Daily Dish: “I remember thinking that Jeff is a different species than I am. That species could easily rip my throat open,” — Conan O’Brien, about Jeff Zucker and their relationship at Harvard. Conan ran the Lampoon; Zucker ran the Crimson.

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