As expected, Conan O’Brien will officially step down as host of NBC’s The Tonight Show tomorrow with a departing package reported to be worth more than $40 million. An estimated $32.5 million is expected to go to Conan, with the rest to his staff in severance pay.
O’Brien will be free to begin another hosting job as soon as September. Although speculation has pointed to a late-night talk show on Fox, ABC has also expressed interest, Comedy Central is a logical option and there could always be the possibility of going into first-run syndication similar to the old Arsenio Hall Show. Given the recent rise in The Tonight Show ratings, O’Brien is not expected to be out of work for very long.
Jay Leno will return to The Tonight Show on Monday, March 1 after The Olympics, with NBC’s revamped 10 p.m. weeknight rotation: Law & Order (Monday), Parenthood (Tuesday), Law & Order: SVU (Wednesday), The Marriage Ref (Thursday) and an expanded edition of Dateline on Friday—also beginning that week.