POSTED: Friday, January 22, 2010 - 8:30am
UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 10:59pm
It's official. The "Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien" will have its last show tonight.
After two weeks of speculation, nasty exchanges between late night hosts and jabs about the NBC network, the deal to let Conan go came early Thursday morning.
What happened over the past two weeks was likened to divorce proceedings playing out on public airwaves.
But after an all-night negotiating session, Conan O’Brien signed an agreement Thursday morning that lets Jay take back The Tonight Show, while allowing Conan to jump to another network.
O’Brien’s been joking about his rumored departure from NBC for days.
Lot of time left on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. Boo!" said a joking O’Brien.
NBC announced that the network will release O’Brien from his contract, at a reported cost of 45 million dollars.
About 33 million of that is expected to go to O’Brien, the rest to taking care of his staff, a stipulation by O’Brien that his manager says was a sticking point in the negotiations.
"If anything, this whole controversy has made him a hot commodity," said TV Guide’s Stephen Battaglio.
O’Brien can't appear on another network until September at the earliest, while Jay Leno returns as The Tonight Show host March 1st.
"The rain couldn't have come at a worse possible time. Today was the day NBC was supposed to burn down the studio for the insurance money," joked Leno.
The question is, will Jay's old audience follow him back to late night?
"If you like Jay, chances are you're going to watch him at 11:30 on The Tonight Show and in a few months, this is all going to pass," Battaglio said.
And now, the 10 o'clock hour on NBC will go back to more traditional primetime programming.
"A couple of dramas, a realty show, a news magazine," said NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker.
Although his reign lasted only seven months, O'Brien may have the last laugh.
He leaves the job Friday with the highest ratings he's had, gets to pocket millions, and could be back on the air this year more popular than ever.
Despite the deal, you may not have seen the last of Conan O’Brien on NBC.
As of now, the network has penciled-in reruns of Conan at 11:30 until the start of the winter Olympics next month.