The People of Earth Respond to Conan O'Brien

So, Conan O'Brien isued this statement about all the late night TV silliness at NBC and their latest decisions about programmng:

People of Earth:

In the last few days, I’ve been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I’ve been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I’ve been absurdly lucky. That said, I’ve been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

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.

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the “Tonight Show” to 12:05 to accommodate the “Jay Leno Show” at 11:35. 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.” 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.

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.

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.



It is said that the Internet has spoken and they want Conan.

The thing is - the people on the Net (who clearly prefer him to Leno) don't watch TV. Well, if they do watch, it's not at 11:30 EST and it's not NBC (or CBS, ABC or Fox).

The Tonight Show's ratings went down 50% while Conan was hosting. Letterman started beating NBC at that time - and Leno's Tonight Show was one place NBC had been winning. Letterman is on Conan's side - for now.

Leno has a following, but they are an older demographic. A demographic that still watches broadcast TV. You do the math. Leno was less funny at 10 o'clock. Too many gimmicks. If he had stuck to doing all his Tonight Show stuff (Headlines and all that) at 10, he would have done better.

Remember, it wasn't the ratings of The Jay Leno Show that hurt NBC - it was what the show was doing as a lead-in to the 11 o'clock news programs across the country - their ratings were way down.

I can't feel too sorry for Conan. He walks away, no matter how he walks away, carrying a lot of money from NBC. I suggest he move back to the East coast and produce. He could get a show on Fox this fall if he wanted one. It would probably finish third or fourth in the late night ratings. Is that how you want to go out?

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