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Conan's Royal Screw Up

1/13/2010 10:00 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF

Conan O'Brien may have a claim against NBC, but not because the network wanted to move his show to 12:05 AM.

We're now told Conan's contract never specified a guaranteed time period. If NBC wanted to run the show at 3:00 AM, Conan would have no recourse. We're told Conan's reps never even asked for a guaranteed time period when they negotiated his contract -- shocking, but true.

By contrast, we're told Jay Leno's deal specifically guarantees his 10:00 PM time period, so the network must negotiate a new deal with him before he moves back to 11:35 PM.

NBC did guarantee that Conan would host "The Tonight Show," and the network has been willing to make good on that promise.

As for Conan's legal position, his claim is a lot more tenuous than first reported to us. We're told Conan is arguing -- given the history of "The Tonight Show" -- there is an "implied" guarantee the show would begin at 11:35. Our sources say Conan's people met with NBC execs yesterday afternoon ... presumably to negotiate a settlement and an out.

Some of the high level people who oversee "The Tonight Show" are saying Conan has himself to blame -- at least in part -- for his failure. They say he refused to take notes from his bosses, saying "I do what I do."


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Sounds like NBC is trying to spin things so they won't look as bad.


Jay has no class; Conan has too much.

1751 days ago


There is clearly an implied time based on the history (decades) of the show and on the name of the show. If it aired at 3 am it wouldn't be the 'Tonight' Show. I don't think this is going to be a major legal hurdle for him. He has 40+ years of precedent that establishes what the Tonight Show is and that anyone would have had a reasonable expectation for what they were contractually agreeing to when they signed up to host it. Slimy on the part of NBC, though.

1751 days ago


Leno announced back in 2004 he would be RETIRING in 2009 and handing the show over to Conan in 2009. So for 5 years, Conan prepared to be the new host of the Tonight Show.

I think the bigger thing for Leno to do would be to formally back out and retire. How in the world could he take that away from Conan?
How could Leno ever go back to the Tonight Show knowing he stabbed Conan in the back? Absolutely disgraceful.

1751 days ago



You arent a big star, you dont call the shots. You lost touch. Not to worry you can always get a job in Vegas opening for Andrew Dice Clay.

1751 days ago


It's kind of shocking how few people seem to understand what is going on here.

Conan isn't just down - EVERYONE is down. When Jay Leno left the Tonight Show, a *massive* amount of people just stopped watching television at that hour. So now the remaining people are being divided up between Letterman, Conan, Leno (though clearly not that many) and Kimmel. You say Conan lost 50% of Leno's audience - you need to look at the overall numbers to really understand what that means.

It'd be like if AVATAR became the highest grossing movie of all time with 2 billion dollars, but it only sold two tickets and eah cost $1 billion dollars. Technically its the highest grossing movie of all time, but there's something else going on here.

Some people also don't understand how important a lead-in is. Leno was taking so badly it was hurting the LOCAL NEWS. Think about that, for a second. Leno was doing so poorly that less people wanted to stay up and watch *facts*.

In late night, the timeslot is key. This is the programming people fall asleep to. If they've switched over to another network by 11:00pm, they're less likely to switch back at 11:30.

The only people who ARE switching back (in large numbers) are the people in that key demographic.

Also, people seem to forget that Jay Leno was losing (badly) to Letterman for 18 months in 1993-1994. EIGHTEEN. He was given almost two years to build an audience after Carson left, and he eventually did.

People, do a little research before you comment.

Oh, wait. This is the Internet. Never mind.

1751 days ago


I'll follow Conando right on over to Fox. That has always been the network for the younger demographic and Conan would be a great fit. Maybe there he will have some freedom to do comedy like he wants instead of pandering to NBC and the old people who still watch it. I miss the old bits from late night that he can't get away with on the Tonight Show. Let Leno have it back- see if it recovers with Conan at another network competing against him.

1751 days ago


who are these guys

1751 days ago


#120 I simply feel sorry for you because you must make such stupid remarks about my post. That was so uncalled for. I simply stated my opinion and this was my opinion only. I think your remark was uncalled for. I would never call anyone out because of a post of them just stating their opinion. You are simply a kid or a very inmature adult that must put others down to build themselves up. I do feel sorry for you. You must be so bitter.

1751 days ago


NBC screwed up when they replace Jay Leno on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. Epic Fail.

Please visit this site in support of Jay Leno:

Please sign the petition dealing with the same issue:

1751 days ago


TMZ's trying to blame Conan for this mess with a contrived time slot issue? That's laughable.

1751 days ago


shame on you Jay-you handed it over now you want it back? What a nice person you are.

1751 days ago


All these comics who work in late night are rich, Conan is like a little girl, crying. In our country so many people need a job, who cares what happens to a millionaire.

1751 days ago

Smooth Criminals    

There is definitely a double standard being applied here by a lot of journalists. They keep on referring to Leno as "flopping" while he only was given 4 months in his new slot, and at the same time fail to mention O'Brien's lack luster ratings (2.5 million) and the fact that he has been in his slot 7 months. So Jay flopped but Conan didn't and O'Brien should have been given more time to establish himself but not Jay?

It has been said numerous times by NBC that they never expected Jay to draw big numbers. It was a cost saving scheme to turn a profit at 10:00 which it did. The problem was that the affiliates complained. I also suspect that NBC wanted to keep Leno from going to another network and make O'Brien compete with both Leno and Letterman.

I was turned off by O'Brien being given the Tonight Show in the way it was given to him, and that was the beginning of my disenchantment with O'Brien. I've watched both of them for years as I think thousands if not hundreds of thousands did, maybe more. To be honest it gave me a sick feeling to watch O'Brien for months licking his chops at the prospect of soon getting the Tonight Show because I knew it was being done at Leno's expense which was a fate Leno didn't deserve.. So it very well could be the reason many Tonight Show viewers stopped watching the Tonight Show but continued to watch Leno at 10.

IMO Jay has an "everyman" quality about him which I think has a broader appeal. O'Brien is more like a quirky friend whose appeal is less broad. Every though it never bothered me, I can see why some people don't like some of his silly sight gag gestures.

I do think O'Brien might have done better in the ratings had Leno retired on his own accord instead of O'Brien working with NBC to force him out of his position so that O'Brien could take over. I think there's too many Tonight Show viewers who can relate to seeing that same kind of thing being done to good people in their own workplace and it hit a nerve.

1751 days ago


I feel bad for Conan. I find both comedians to be funny but what NBC is doing to Conan here is messed up. I understand that he lost somewhere around half the tonight show audience when he stepped in but I feel that people who bring this up as fodder for why Conan sucks or was doing a poor job forget to mention two key aspects pertaining to his low ratings. 1) He was going to need time to build his audience. Jay and Conan couldn't be more different, of course some people weren't going to watch Conan in Carson's old chair but the fact remains that he was always going to need at least a year to bring some of the audience back. 2) And this is the important one. The lead in for the Tonight Show isn't nearly what it used to be! Leno isn't drawing nearly the same numbers NBC prime time programming was when they were airing dramas, so how can people expect Conan to retain the original Tonight Show numbers when what comes before him wasn't as good as what Leno had? Worse even, it's Leno who's killing the Tonight Show lead in! How do people not get this? Leno is a piss-poor lead in and, as a result, the viewership for both the news and the Tonight Show are significantly down. It's Leno's fault, cut and dry.

1751 days ago


You know what, TMZ, there's a classy and quality organization. And all of it's readers are the cream of the crop when it comes to intelligence. I'm sorry Conan's comedy constantly makes fun of YOU, so I'm glad you don't get it yo paparazzi loving db's. You are what is wrong with america, and YOU PEOPLE and PEOPLE LIKE TMZ have ruined thousands of lives then put them on display while they continue to shred to the core every bit of decency that still is humanity. Michael Jackson was a martyr, Princess Diana literally was killed because of this. You are pathetic, go read about things that can make the world a better place, instead of fueling a machine that ruins lives, including yours. Goto hell, all of you. Oh wait, you're already there, living in a hell of everyday self depreciation in the cultural porta-potty of the united states : Los Angeles.

1751 days ago
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