When Conan O’Brien does exit NBC — which may not be very long from now — at least one of the network’s top executives doesn’t sound all that upset to see him leave.
Dick Ebersol, the chairman of NBC Universal Sports, says the late-night shakeup currently underway at the network is a result first and foremost of the disappointing ratings for “The Tonight Show” since O’Brien took over last summer.
“What this is really all about is an astounding failure by Conan,” Ebersol tells The New York Times. He adds that the sniping that’s been coming from O’Brien and CBS’ David Letterman and recent days is “chicken-hearted and gutless to blame a guy you couldn’t beat in the ratings.”
Tell us how you really feel, Mr. Ebersol.
Meanwhile, it’s starting to look like a deal is coming together that will allow O’Brien to walk away and be free to find a job on another network. The Daily Beast is reporting that O’Brien will take some sort of buyout, and NBC won’t enforce a non-compete clause in his contract — which will let him find work elsewhere.
The upshot for NBC will be Jay Leno’s return to “The Tonight Show,” along with a more traditional lineup at 10 p.m. “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and “Last Call with Carson Daly” will stay put.
FOX is considered the most likely future home for O’Brien, but it’s not an automatic. The network’s affiliates would have to sign off on any potential deal.
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