Network agrees on settlement terms.
January 15, 2010 - Update: And it's done! The Wrap now reports that Conan O'Brien and NBC have come to terms on his departure and O'Brien is getting $30 million as part of his settlement. The deal still needs to be signed, and of course, everyone is waiting to hear how long O'Brien has to wait before he is free to do a new series.
Also still to be announced is O'Brien's final day on The Tonight Show, but most assume it will be next Friday, the 22nd.
Original story below:
There's still no final word on what will happen with Conan O'Brien, but that didn't mean there still wasn't more drama occurring with the very messy situation.
Multiple sources say that O'Brien's team and NBC are close to finalizing the deal that will see O'Brien leave The Tonight Show after only hosting the show for seven months – with Jay Leno stepping back in as the host. The final terms of that deal need to be ironed out, but O'Brien will be getting a large payout.
The Wrap.com says O'Brien is likely to get at least $25 million, but that NBC wants the amount of money he gets to vary depending on how long he is restricted from staying off the air. Right now, it looks like O'Brien could be stopped from beginning a new show until as soon as September or possibly a longer wait until January. It's widely assumed that FOX will make O'Brien an offer to come start a new talk show, after he has officially severed ties with NBC.
One major bone of contention is whether NBC has breached O'Brien's contract or not, by asking him to move The Tonight Show to 12:05 – which is what is causing O'Brien to leave. The Wrap says O'Brien's team argues O'Brien's deal called for him to host The Tonight Show at 11:35, while NBC counters that wasn't the case – he was contracted to host The Tonight Show, regardless of when it aired. If NBC were to be found in breach of the contract, it would be more cut and dry and they would owe O'Brien $40 million.
Meanwhile, even as we were hearing that the two sides were close to a deal, one of NBC's bigwigs went on the attack against O'Brien. Dick Ebersol, Chairman of NBC Universal Sports, was quoted in the New York Times as saying, "What this is really all about is an astounding failure by Conan," when it came to the performance of his show and adding that NBC, "bet on the wrong guy."
Ebersol also says O'Brien ignored his suggestions to make his show more mainstream when he took over The Tonight Show and -- referring to O'Brien and David Letterman's recent jokes about Jay Leno -- said it was, "chicken-hearted and gutless to blame a guy you couldn't beat in the ratings."
While he heads up the Sports division, and thus is not directly tied to the O'Brien situation, Ebersol is still a powerful person at NBC and a good friend of NBC Universal's Jeff Zucker – the man who started all this trouble in the first place, by first making the deal for Conan to take over The Tonight Show six years ago (which many feel was premature) and then by starting up The Jay Leno Show, when he didn't want to lose Leno to ABC.