NBC Had No Interest in Keeping Conan

Bizarre maneuvering appears designed to force host out, save $
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 13, 2010 11:57 AM CST
Conan O'Brien.   (AP Photo)

(Newser) – NBC’s offer to move Conan O’Brien and his Tonight Show to 12:05 looks like it was “too unpalatable to accept,” which leads James Poniewozik to wonder if the network ever wanted to keep the likely-departing host. The deal smacks of a segment on the show last night, in which one of O’Brien’s career opportunities was “playing the gay neighbor on an untitled Ed Asner sitcom.” NBC just wants Conan out and its coffers intact.

“The network seems to be driving its decision-making on the basis of avoiding contractual payouts,” Poniewozik writes in Time. “If it fires Conan, it owes an astronomical sum.” But if he quits because staying would be so onerous, “hopefully the network gets off cheap.” And it looks like it was the plan all along. “We move Leno to 10. If it works, beautiful! If it doesn't, worst-case scenario, we can always get Leno back at 11:35—where Conan's ratings will have been hurt by the fall-off from Leno, anyway.”

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