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Conan O'Brien -- Sayonara NBC

1/12/2010 5:25 PM PST BY TMZ STAFF

Conan O'Brien Telegraphs Exit from NBCConan O'Brien has made it crystal clear -- he's leaving NBC.

O'Brien just released a candid letter to the "People of Earth," in which he addresses his "personal disappointment" in losing the show. Conan adds, "The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn't The Tonight Show."

Regarding the time shift, Conan states, "I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction."

And since he won't take part in a 12:05 Tonight Show -- Conan's only left with one real option ...get outta Dodge.

Conan also rips NBC, claiming the network promised him the opportunity to build a lasting audience, but "sadly, we were never given that chance."

He also reveals that he has not received an offer to work for another network.

But the key to the whole letter is towards the end, where Conan basically says he's taking his show to another network -- one who "values our work."

NBC had no comment about Conan's letter.

Click HERE to read the letter in its entirety.

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.




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Leno is an unfunny piece of garbage and should have left gracefully at the time he said he would.

1745 days ago


It's Karma time for Leno. Leno MUST QUIT. He should NEVER HAVE HAD THE TONIGHT SHOW in the first place.

1745 days ago


Love you Conan!!!!!!!

1745 days ago


Im for Conan, but why is everybody making Leno out to be a bad guy here? When NBC promised Conan the Tonight Show back in 2004 they forced Jay out. Jay could have said no, I'm leaving the network you jerks. Instead he gracefully stepped aside without argument. NBC didn't want Conan to have to compete with Leno if Leno went to another network so they worked out a deal to keep Leno on NBC. Leno is a loyal man so if they tell him to go back to 11:35, he will, because all he wants to do is work. Leno is a workaholic, his work ethic is legendary. Its not like he is saying yeah I want that spot so force Conan out, he is saying I'll do whatever the network wants me to do. He's not exactly being a jackass. Leno wont just leave and retire because he is a workaholic and won't stop working until he dies.

1745 days ago


I Really hope NBC gets it together, what were they thinking in keeping Jay Leno? Now don't get me wrong...I love Jay Leno, but he gave the Tonight Show to Conan and by him still doing another show it messes up the ratings to where the other shows are not given a real chance! I know that NBC made a show for him just so they can keep the ratings but it is being stretched thin. Ijust hope that Jay Leno can walk and Give Conan and Jimmy a chance for it is their time.
Honestly they shouldn't have even messed with the whole scheduleswitch of hosts until Jay Leno was REALLY ready to go!

1745 days ago


Love you Conan i hope they wake up but ill watch you were ever you go Go to Fox lol right after the news it would be great !! But i sure hope nbc wakes the hell up!!

1745 days ago


Conan is the man. Leno is such a disappointing, lame excuse for a host. It's like he wants all the control and fame, but doesn't hold a candle to the smart comedy and fresh ideas of O'Brien/Letterman. He wants to win the race by any means necessary, but doesn't know why. The best scenario I can think of would be for Comedy Central to move the Daily Show to 10, Colbert Report to 10:30 and give Conan an hour long show at 11. They would dominate ratings and once and for all we can kill the tired ass baby boomer beast that is Leno and NBC.

1745 days ago


THIS is one of the many reasons you are so loved (me included!). What a classy, good hearted, down to earth person. Good things are coming.

1745 days ago


If Conan hadn't been hosting his show during this horrible late night steroid era this would have never happened.

1745 days ago

Manny III    

first of all, i've never been a Conan fan. BUT WAIT ALL YOU FANS BEFORE YOU HATE ON ME! I don't dislike Conan, i've even watched his show from time to time, he just was not my cup of know, i wish him well and al lthe success. BUT I don't see how he can be shocked or surprised at the way NBC is treating him. They screwed over Letterman and upset him way back when, when he was supposed to take over Tonight, they screwed Leno by forcing him out before he was ready to leave, and so what they are doing to him should be no surprise.
And yet, even after all that, i supose i AM a little taken aback that NBC would do this! Although with their ratings, it should be obvious that they conduct their bussiness like they have a complete moron in charge. (and that's an insult to morons!)
I can't imagine how this thing works out, but Conan, GOOD LUCK, whatever you do!

1745 days ago


I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Leno has lost all dignity and integrity by doing this. He has forever tainted the name of the Tonight Show, even though it's no longer his name. Why can't he leave gracefully like Johnny and just enjoy his money? Such a child. He has lost respect by everyone - even those that were originally siding with him at the beginning.

Go play with your cars, Jay. Conan is our guy.

1745 days ago


Jay was carried by the affiliates in the first place. He was never good. So when he goes to 10pm and bombs, they move him back? Conan's ratings were affected by Jay sucking up audience at 10 and damaging the network. Conan was the rightful heir. The only sweet thing is that after 18 years Letterman is finally vindicated and the truth comes out.

1745 days ago


in response to comment #12 by claire
are you an idiot?? leno RULED the ratings over letterman for 15 years. he left the tonight show DOMINATING letterman... i don't like how nbc execs are handling this, but there's no doubt leno would win in the tonight show slot... letterman sucks balls, and is still able to thoroughly beat down conan...

1745 days ago


I absolutely adore Conan and think NBC should and Jay Leno should be ashamed of themselves for what they are asking Conan to do. Has it not occurred to them that Jay has just run his course and needs to move on? Shameful. Conan, I'll follow your program wherever you end up. Stick to your principles, buddy, and good luck to you!

1745 days ago


well said! i am 24 years young and Conan is the next generation of
> Late night comedy. Jay was funny and still is to my parents. time to
> move on NBC. you got another 20 years of me watching conan. so much
> for going to L.A> to see his show.... NBC is stupid

1745 days ago
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