Conan O’Brien rejects NBC’s 12:05 proposal

01.12.10 9 years ago 11 Comments
“The Tonight Show” host Conan O’Brien released a statement on Tuesday (January 12) making it clear that he wants no part of NBC’s plan to move him and his show to a 12:05 time slot.
NBC told reporters on Sunday that the network plans to move “The Jay Leno Show” out of primetime after February 11 and the network hoped to have Leno air from 11:35 p.m. til 12:05 a.m., followed by “The Tonight Show” at 12:05. NBC executives expressed optimism that O’Brien would play ball with their plan, due to his love of “The Tonight Show” and its brand and legacy.
In the statement, O’Brien makes it clear that he has no interest in that proposal. While some media outlets are saying that O’Brien has quit “The Tonight Show,” there’s nothing about quitting in the statement. What he says, in sometimes-funny fashion, is that what has been proposed to him isn’t a deal he wants any part of.
O’Brien’s statement reads as follows:
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.
The manner of O’Brien’s statement was particularly telling. The comic went outside of the network publicity circuit and threw down the gauntlet all on his own, forcing NBC into something of a corner. 
What’s the next step?
Does this mean Conan O’Brien is on his way to another network (FOX)? 
Does that mean that Leno will become host of “The Tonight Show” again?
Does Jimmy Fallon get offered the 12:05 slot?
Who takes over the Fallon slot?
Or is this a negotiating ploy on O’Brien’s part? 
NBC had no official comment.
Stay tuned for additional information…

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