NBC’s late night mess appears to be coming to a close.
According to reports, Conan O’Brien is going to be paid $40 million to leave his high profile post as host of ‘The Tonight Show.’ Part of that sum will be used to give severance to the large number of staffers who followed him to Los Angeles from New York.
O’Brien’s deal will reportedly give him $32.5 million to sit on the sidelines until the fall, though he will be able to sign a new deal in the interim – a so-called “garden” deal.
The remaining $7.5 million will be targeted to O’Brien employees who were reported last week to have been upset that they were walking away with nothing after being asked to relocate across country only to lose their jobs after less than six months.
The agreement is expected to be signed sometime today and Jay Leno officially returned to his old job as host of ‘The Tonight Show.’
The messy late night situation began when NBC decided to pull Leno from his 10 PM time slot and return him to 11:35 PM and push O’Brien’s ‘Tonight Show’ back to 12:05 AM. O’Brien balked at the move, first privately and then publicly.
Efforts to solve this problem turned feverish last week as both Leno and O’Brien, and then their fellow late night hosts David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel offered nightly commentary that skewered the network and each other.
O’Brien released a passionate statement last week saying he didn’t want to host the show if it was pushed back half an hour. He is expected to host his last ‘Tonight Show’ on Friday, January 22. Leno’s 10 PM experiment is reportedly set to end on February 12.
During Monday’s show, Leno joked about the situation. “Conan O’Brien and I won a Golden Globe for Best Late Night Drama,” he said, and then added, “CBS is developing a a show about the situation here. It’s called ‘Two Men and a Half-Assed Network.’
On a more serious note, Leno also offered his side of the story, which you can watch below.