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The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien: Most Expensive Cancellation Ever?

The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien canceledAfter days and days of negotiations, the deal has finally been closed. The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien will shut down after tomorrow night.

A short and very carefully-worded statement from NBC and Conan O’Brien reads this way…

NBC and Conan O’Brien have reached a resolution of the issues surrounding O’Brien’s contract to host “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.”

Under terms of an agreement that was signed earlier today, NBC and O’Brien will settle their contractual obligations and the network will release O’Brien from his contract, freeing him to pursue other opportunities after September 1, 2010.

O’Brien will make his final appearance as host of “The Tonight Show” on January 22.

The overall deal, which was closed at 3am this morning, is supposed to be valued at approximately $47 million. That’s just a few million less than what it costs to produce a year’s worth of the show. It’s a couple million more than NBC agreed to pay O’Brien as a penalty, back in 2004, if he didn’t actually get to take over the Tonight Show. According to NBC, it’s far less than what they anticipated losing if they kept him on the air.

Should O'Brien have been given more time?

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O’Brien will take away approximately $33 million and the rest will go to his staff. Some reports have indicated that O’Brien will supplement the crew severance with $1 million out of his own pocket.

The host will be able to keep his settlement, even if he lands a new show on another network. Wherever he goes, O’Brien will likely have to take a significant paycut. He’s supposedly anxious to start work on a new program, in part to get his staff back to work.

Wherever O’Brien ends up, he’ll have to do a new show without skits like “In the Year 3000″ and characters like the Masturbating Bear and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Those and the rest of O’Brien’s work during his 17 years at the network remain the intellectual property of NBC. If he wants to use them, he’ll have to get permission to do so.

If you’re a fan of O’Brien’s Tonight Show, it won’t be leaving the airwaves for another week. After tomorrow night’s series finale, NBC will broadcast reruns of the show until the Winter Olympics begin. Rest assured, they won’t be the recent installments that have been filled with peacock bashing.

What do you think? Who got the better deal — NBC, O’Brien, or O’Brien’s staff? Do you think NBC should have stuck with the show?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

WolvenSpectre January 22, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Finally the death of Triumph!!! Can I be the one to put him down… Pleeeeeease!

Oh, better yet, can I have him taken to Quebec and have him slowly torn apart there by Montreal:


Sean January 22, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Could NBC really try to keep Triumph? The character showed up in other venues and on other shows enough to argue it wasn’t a Late Nite bit. Unless NBC got a cut of Triumph being on MTV and elsewhere…did they?


admin January 22, 2010 at 3:09 pm

@Sean: Supposedly he’s NBC’s property and Robert Smigel has to get permission when he’s used on other networks.


huma January 22, 2010 at 11:32 am

me 2…..can’t wait…..


MK January 22, 2010 at 8:04 am

Go Co-Co! We’ll follow you to wherever you wind up on 9/1. Can’t wait.


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