Leno in, Conan out as host of "Tonight Show"
Jay Leno is once again the host of the "Tonight Show", after weeks of high profile negotiations which ultimately left Conan O'Brien out in the cold. NBC announced the switch Thursday, as O'Brien accepted a severance package of more than $40 million.
Talk of a late night line-up change began months ago, as the network conceeded that Leno's prime time experiment was not going over well with NBC affilliates. The affiliate complained that Leno's show was a poor lead in to local news, and demanded a change. Network executives offered Leno a 30 minute segment following local news at 11:35pm, which would move the "Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" back an additional 30 minutes. But O'Brien objected, and sparks began to fly.
"Tonight Show" ratings slipped after O'Brien took over, and Leno was seen as the more valuable commodity. After negotiating a settlement which included more than $12 million for his staff (and a non-compete agreement that keeps him off the air until September), O'Brien is moving on.
Conan O'Brien broadcast his last "Tonight Show" Friday, and Leno is expected to air his first show as the "new" host after the Winter Olympics ends on Feburary 26th.
Posted by Terry Marsh@ Terry Marsh