His future at NBC uncertain, Conan O’Brien released a statement on Tuesday afternoon in which he rejected NBC’s plan to bump his “Tonight Show” to 12:05 and moved closer to leaving the network.
In the approximately 550-word letter, addressed to “People of Earth” and sent across the news wires at around 3:00pm EST, O’Brien takes a bold stand against his employer and introduces an argument that his lawyers will surely make in negotiating him out of his NBC contract.
“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,” he writes. “The ‘Tonight Show’ at 12:05 simply isn’t the ‘Tonight Show.'”
Besides emphasizing his respect for the venerable late-night franchise with this statement, O’Brien is picking apart the terms of his contract. The New York Times reported on Tuesday morning that O’Brien’s contract doesn’t contain any language that affixes the “Tonight Show” to a specific timeslot and therefore NBC could call a new 12:05 program the “Tonight Show” without technically breaching the contract. The “Tonight Show,” though, has followed the late local news for 60 years and it is clear that O’Brien and his representatives will use this fact in trying to facilitate a quick exit from NBC.
While it appears that O’Brien’s tenure at NBC is all but over, it is unclear what the veteran late-night host will do next. On his show Tuesday night, O’Brien made light of this uncertainty, greeting his audience by saying, “Hello, my name is Conan O’Brien and I may soon be available for children’s parties.”