NBC to Conan: Take 12am or Leave

Sources dish on Jay Leno-Conan O'Brien shakeup
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 8, 2010 7:23 AM CST
Updated Jan 8, 2010 7:48 AM CST
In this photo provided by NBC, Conan O'Brien interviewed by Jay Leno during Leno's final taping as host of The Tonight Show in Burbank, Calif. on Friday, May 29, 2009.   (AP Photo/NBC, Paul Drinkwater)

(Newser) – The rumor mill continues to churn out news of Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien’s futures at NBC, with the network releasing just two vague statements. The latest:

  • NBC has given O’Brien an ultimatum, sources tell TMZ: Move to the midnight slot or get out. Though NBC could technically block him from moving to another network for two years, sources say they will let him go if he gets another offer, and give Leno a full hour.
  • The Los Angeles Times reports Leno is on board with the plan and O’Brien is not; TMZ says O’Brien is angry but considering the offer; and the New York Times reports that while everyone is still in talks, an agreement is basically in place.

  • The change-up is expected after NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage ends in March. Sources tell The Wrap NBC execs are concerned local stations will start bailing on The Jay Leno Show this spring if the line-up remains as-is.
  • While NBC scrambles to find new 10pm programming, Dateline, USA dramas, unaired reality shows, and current hourlong dramas will probably be used as short-term replacements.
  • One problem for NBC: O’Brien’s contract includes a $40 to $45 million penalty fee if the network forces him out of The Tonight Show. One senior NBC exec says O'Brien's show will keep that title—Leno is said to be more interested in the time slot—and Leno will keep The Jay Leno Show title. Meanwhile, even if Leno ends up with a half-hour show, sources say his salary will not be cut in half.
  • NBC’s first statement yesterday expressed support for Leno and seemed to deny rumors that his show had been canceled; its second stated, “We remain committed to keeping Conan O’Brien on NBC.”

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