NBC Nightmare: Conan says he'll fight moving the Tonight Show

by Paul William Tenny

Lay Leno and Conan O'BrienIt's amazing that this mess could get any more dysfunctional than it already is, but we're there. Conan O'Brien showed that he's the only person in the whole deal who actually has a spine, and isn't willing to sacrifice things he shouldn't have to (and also that perhaps he's the only person who cares about the show he hosts rather than NBC's affiliates, NBC's ratings, or either his or Leno's ego).

In a statement released today, O'Brien that while he has no idea what the ultimate outcome will be, that he's not going to cooperate willingly in the "destruction" of The Tonight Show (h/t: Media Decoder):

People of Earth:

In the last few days, I've been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I've been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I've been absurdly lucky. That said, I've been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over "The Tonight Show" in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004, I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my "Tonight Show" in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the "Tonight Show" to 12:05 to accommodate the "Jay Leno Show" at 11:35. For 60 years, the "Tonight Show" has aired immediately following the late local news. 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. The "Tonight Show" at 12:05 simply isn't the "Tonight Show." Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the "Late Night" show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard, and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of "The Tonight Show." But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet, a time slot doesn't matter. But with the "Tonight Show," I believe nothing could matter more.

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.

Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it's always been that way.



I don't know how much leverage NBC has here. Leno has already told his audience that his show has been canceled and it's Jay's failure to find an audience that precipitated this mess in the first place. Despite Conan struggling in his first seven months, The Tonight Show hasn't been anywhere nearly as bad off as Leno has. NBC's affiliate problem just wants Leno gone, they don't care about O'Brien.

The Tonight Show under O'Brien may not be #1 anymore, but it's not exactly last place, often losing to reruns and cable, like Leno has been.
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1 Comment

I've enjoyed The Tonight Show with all of its various hosts since 1957. So far, no one has topped Johnny Carson, but Jay was enjoyable, and so has been Conan.

I look forward to see MORE of Conan on The Tonight Show at 11:35!

I hope NBC backs down on their plans to move Jay to a half hour show at 11:35, and move Conan back to 12:05.

NBC should wake up and smell the coffee...or whatever aroma is wafting past them...

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