Conan O'Brien has finally come out officially and said what he thinks about this whole NBC late night kerfluffle. It looks like NBC's plan of a half hour The Jay Leno Show at 11:35 PM ET, followed by The Tonight Show and Late Night has been rejected by the current Tonight Show host.
Conan feels betrayed by NBC, feeling that he hasn't been given the chance to establish himself. He says, "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."
He further adds, "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." O'Brien has not said outright that he is quitting The Tonight Show, or leaving NBC. In fact, he says he has no other offers from any other networks (which makes sense considering he's under contract). He is saying that he will not agree to the time-shifted plans NBC presented earlier this week.
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.
NBC made this mess, by changing their mind about getting rid of Leno when it looked like he might jump ship to another network. They made the decision to give O'Brien The Tonight Show in 2009. The Jay Leno Show in prime time failed because of NBC's short-sightedness and fiscal selfishness -- how could they think the affiliates local news ratings dropping wasn't important? Now they're backing out of their vow with Leno to give him at least a year to find an audience.
So because of their mistakes and inability to make a sound decision, they've decided to punish O'Brien and shake up their whole late night schedule after sixty years? How this one will resolve itself remains to be seen, but it looks like NBC just keeps on taking two steps backward for every one step forward. And I'm not even sure that on step is moving forward anymore.