Conan to NBC: I'm Won't Move to New Timeslot

Posted on January 12, 2010

The late night talk show disaster just keeps rolling on. NBC has been pushing Conan for an answer about whether he'll agree to move The Tonight Show to 12:05 a.m. Well, the suits got their answer: no way. Here's an except from the statement Conan released today which he addressed to "People of Earth."

Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

Conan says moving the Tonight Show from 11:35 to 12:05 to make way for the Jay Leno Show simply will not work. He says, "For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn't the Tonight Show."

Conan also noted the move would hurt Fallon's show: "Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy."

In closing, Conan says he is very disappointed, which is completely understandable.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn't matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.
So far NBC has refused comment on Conan's amazingly brave statement. Will NBC cave and allow Conan to stay at 11:35? They've already committed to putting Jay Leno in that timeslot for half an hour with the hope that Conan will roll over and move his show back half an hour. Well, that's not happening. Although Conan also said in his statement that he has no formal offers, there are rumors that Fox wants to lure him away from NBC. In any event, it's not a happy day in the executive suites at NBC today. What a disaster they've created.

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