Conan O’Brien & NBC’s divorce details ironed out


For the past week, it hasn’t been so much about when Conan O’Brien was leaving, but how much money we and his staff would get, and whether Coco would burn the motherf-cker down as he left the building. Well, the severance packages have been negotiated, and it looks like yesterday’s report was right. Coco did stand up for his staff, hiking a potential staff severance package (in total) from somewhere in the vicinity of $7 million to the now-kickass figure of $12 million. By my estimations, if the money is spread out equally (doubtful), Coco’s 200 staffers will probably be leaving NBC with $60,000 packages each. Here’s a question, though – why couldn’t some of those staffers continue to work for NBC in some capacity? Is Leno going to fire everyone who ever worked for Coco?

Anyway, Coco is walking away with $33 million, although some sources are saying that Coco is going to supplement his staffers’ packages out of his own pocket – which, again, is really, really cool.

Following several days of often tense negotiations, NBC and Conan O’Brien inked a deal early Thursday to end the host’s short tenure on ‘The Tonight Show,’ NBC has confirmed. This paves the way for allowing Jay Leno to return to late night from his unsuccessful run at 10 p.m.

According to the network, O’Brien will receive $33 million and his staff another $12 million. The sticking point in O’Brien’s complex exit negotiations with NBC had involved his employees. It’s also believed the agreement includes a provision that would bar O’Brien from appearing on other shows or hosting for an undetermined amount of time.

His final show will be Friday, and Leno will return to ‘Tonight’ on March 1.

“In the end, Conan was appreciative of the steps NBC made to take care of his staff and crew, and decided to supplement the severance they were getting out of his own pocket,” his manager, Gavin Polone, told The Wall Street Journal. “Now he just wants to get back on the air as quickly as possible.”

The proposal allows O’Brien, who would exit ‘Tonight’ less than a year after taking over from Leno, to start work on a competing network as early as September. But he would be barred from making NBC the butt of jokes. Speculation that the Fox network might court O’Brien for a late-night show when he leaves NBC prompted a monologue joke Tuesday.

Listing things he might do with “all my new free time,” O’Brien concluded with “Make a big move to Fox. Megan Fox.”

The fate of characters developed by O’Brien and his staff was also part of the negotiations. Since they are technically the intellectual property of NBC, O’Brien deemed it the right time on Wednesday’s show to bring out an old friend, one last time, [by bringing out Insult].

The negotiations became heated on Wednesday, with NBC brushing back criticism from O’Brien’s camp.

O’Brien was “dug in” on getting his staffers a good severance package, but NBC fired back in a statement, saying “it was Conan’s decision to leave NBC that resulted in nearly 200 of his staffers being out of work.”

Adding: “We have already agreed to pay millions of dollars to compensate every one of them. This latest posturing is nothing more than a PR ploy,” the network said.

O’Brien asked to be released from his contract, which has about two-and-a-half years left, after rejecting NBC’s plan to push him and ‘Tonight’ to 12:05 a.m. EST to make way for a half-hour show with Leno at 11:35 p.m.

The network, hit by poor ratings for its prime-time experiment, ‘The Jay Leno Show,’ and for O’Brien’s ‘Tonight,’ was trying to keep both comedians on board.

O’Brien has seen his viewership jump in recent days. Ratings for Leno in the same window, however, remained flat.

The dispute has repeatedly spilled on-air, with jokes aplenty made about it by Leno, O’Brien and hosts at other networks. CBS’ David Letterman has been especially brutal on NBC and Leno, whom he has dubbed “Big Jaw” during several scathing monologues.

A pro-O’Brien fan protest held Monday outside Universal Studios, one of several such big-city rallies, included a mock martial arts fight between a man wearing a white Leno wig and one in a red O’Brien wig. The fake O’Brien won.

The crowd was rewarded with a studio rooftop wave from O’Brien and a few words from his ‘Tonight’ sidekick, Andy Richter, who thanked them and said it’s been a tough time but also a “really fun” one.

“The lawyers won’t let me say anything else,” Richter added.

[From PopEater]

So, it’s done. Maybe Coco will end up on Fox, maybe he’ll just bum around LA or New York, licking his wounds. I don’t know. But I’ve grown to like Coco a lot throughout this whole ordeal, and he’s shown himself to be a man who stands up for his principles even under pressure. I hope Coco does end up on another network, and I hope he does really, really well in the years to come.

Conan O’Brien greeting fans in LA on January 18, 2010. Credit: Pacific Coast News.


You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

15 Responses to “Conan O’Brien & NBC’s divorce details ironed out”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. bite me says:

    love you coco

  2. BitterBetty says:

    “O’Brien has seen his viewership jump in recent days. Ratings for Leno in the same window, however, remained flat.”

    More proof of NBC’s stupidity. once Letterman retires, Conan will officially be the latenight king of our generation. meanwhile Leno is already yesterday’s garbage.

  3. I would have thought that Triumph was the intellectual property of Robert Smigel.

  4. lucy2 says:

    Yeah, I think Conan had a young audience and has probably gained some new fans, and Leno will be fighting an uphill battle for some time, and I can’t imagine he has more than a few more years of this left in him.

    Very glad Conan fought for more for his staff, and I won’t be a bit surprised if he kicks in more from his cut. NBC must have really violated his contract to be throwing $45 million at him, AND letting him go back on the air by Sept. Remember Zucker said it was all PR posturing, and was threatening to keep Conan off the air for 3 years? Hmm, looks like Zucker didn’t have quite the hand he thought he did.

  5. EMV says:

    I disagree with all of this…NBC needs admit their mistakes and Jay Leno needs to let go. Leno never wanted to leave the tonight show and so it really just confuses me that NBC made new show for him, since really he was fired from that position. Who the hell wants to watch 3 late night shows? Leno,Conan, and Fallon…poor Carson. They really didn’t even give Conan a chance. I love Conan and think even with his 32mill deal he is getting the short end of the stick and should be, as I’m sure he is PISSED. I’m thinking he’ll move to another network like FOX and his ratings will be better than ever. PS Adam Sandler was amazing on the show last night!

  6. SolitaryAngel says:

    I haven’t seen a SINGLE “Team Chin” sign……

  7. LolaBella says:

    Good on Conan for ensuring that his staff received some sort of severance.

    Team Conan.

  8. Praise St. Angie! says:

    “I would have thought that Triumph was the intellectual property of Robert Smigel.”

    exactly what I would have assumed, too.

  9. Jazz says:

    Dammit I missed last night’s show! :-/

    Pity Conan couldn’t get back on air before September. Hopefully NBC don’t get Leno’s ratings up again during that time so Conan has another uphill battle when he gets back on air. NBC getting Leno’s ratings back up? Nah!!

    Team Conan! Where did Coco come from anyway?

  10. Kelbees says:

    Wish I could have watched more while Coco was still hosting. Unfortunately since the DTV “revolution” my viewing of most TV programs has been pushed online…

  11. emma says:

    i’m going to miss conan. i’ve been watching him since middle school. i hope he comes back in september. I, for one, will be watching his show. As for the tonight show, i refuse to watch when leno takes over, so i guess, i’m done with that show. and it’s probably small of me, but i hope leno fails!

    conan has always taken care of his staff. during the writer’s strike, he paid them out of his own pocket.

    the article said that triumph the insult dog came on the show last night, but it wasn’t triumph, it was the masturbating bear.

    and jazz, you can catch last night’s show on hulu. although they did cut out the bugatti veyron mouse skit. as for where did coco come from, conan has jokingly referred to himself as that in the past. however, i do know that the moniker coco christopher came from tom hanks when he was a guest on the tonight show during it’s first week.

    team coco forever!

  12. Sumodo says:

    TEAM COCO! I have watched almost every show of Conan’s (except for the week Letterman’s crisis was front-page news) since he got bumped up to The Tonight Show. I will not return to Letterman and I will not watch Jay. Until Conan returns to TV, I will watch Jon Stewart or George Lopez at 11, followed by Steven Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel and later, Craig Ferguson. I am going to limit my NBC-watching to Meet the Press.

  13. Popcorny says:

    If Coco goes to Faux, I will abandon my decade-long boycott of that network -but JUST for the Coco Power Hour, not a minute more. -just as I am this week/remaining days of his with NothingButC’ksu*kers.
    Jay’s gonna fail hard. What Jay’s done is going to eventually destroy him -and it’s already underway and afoot.
    I hope celebrities will also boycott/avoid Jay’s show.

  14. tkat says:

    I guess I am all alone on this one. I don’t understand why Jay Leno is being vilified. He never wanted to leave. His contract was up and NBC did not renew it because they already signed a contract with Conan. Plus, Jay apparently didn’t fight it because he didn’t want a repeat of the Leno/Letterman drama.

    Jay’s ratings were good and NBC didn’t want to change anything, but they would have had to pay Conan big bucks to break it. Of course, now they are paying even more.

    Conan is fantastic. I LOVED him on his 12:30 show. He is funny and has the bonus of seeming like a genuinely nice person. I just never thought he was a Tonight Show kind of guy. His sense of humor is too quirky and off-center to appeal to that audience.

    I feel like both Conan and Leno are getting shafted by NBC’s bad decision.

  15. emma says:

    well jay basically said that it was right for conan to be fired because of the low ratings. what about his low ratings? if jay cared about the sanctity of the tonight show or respect about his fellow late night hosts, then he wouldn’t have accepted the deal to move his show to 11:30. having the tonight show on during the next day is a little absurd, don’t you think? and then jimmy’s show would have had to been moved back as well as carson daly’s show. it was jay’s show that affiliates had problems with. if he’s the good guy that he says he is, why not just walk away? if he doesn’t want to retire, why not just switch networks? jay said that he has no bad feelings for conan, well why should he? he basically got what he wanted. if jay wanted to avoid the whole late repeat of late night drama, then he could have easily walked away. jay must have something on the folks at nbc, cause seriously, they’re always choosing him over anyone else. first it was letterman and now it’s conan. so what happens if later on he decides to retire and later changes his mind, will he take the show back yet again? i’m curious though, are there any pro leno rallies be held? i know there were pro coco rallies in la, new york, seattle, and chicago.