According to gossip site TMZ, Conan O’Brien does not have any time slot guarantees in his contract.
While Jay Leno had a contractual agreement for the 10pm slot, NBC will have to renegotiate for his move to 11:35pm while no such guarantees were made to Conan. Multiple sources, including The New York Times and Reuters, are reporting similar stories. Conan’s existing contract allegedly guarantees that he hosts The Tonight Show with no measures guaranteeing when said show actually airs.
TMZ goes on to report that Conan has argued that given the esteemed history of the long-running show, there is an implied guarantee that the show airs at 11:35 after local new coverage by affiliates. Representatives for Conan met with NBC earlier this week to work a settlement or exit strategy.
O’Brien, who took over NBC’s flagship talk show from Jay Leno just seven months ago, said it was “an enormous personal disappointment” to see his program moved to the later time. “My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show,” he said in a statement. “But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction.”
Some media analysts said O’Brien’s decision effectively put him in a position of asking NBC to make a choice between him and Leno — and that Leno would be the likely winner. Paul Kagan, CEO of PK Worldmedia, told Reuters he expected that O’Brien would move to Fox or another network and Leno would get his old job back on The Tonight Show.
There was no immediate comment from NBC.
“My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew and I can do a show that we can be proud for a company that values our work,” O’Brien said.
On Tuesday, Conan took a shot at NBC during his opening monologue: “NBC says they’re planning to have the late night situation worked out before the Winter Olympics start. And trust me, when NBC says something — you can take that to the bank.”
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