Parsing Legal Ramifications of NBC’s Late-Night Mess

By Andrew Gauthier 


Does Conan O’Brien‘s contract give NBC the right to bump him to 12:05 to make room for Jay Leno at 11:35?

That’s the $40 million legal question hovering over O’Brien’s open defiance Tuesday of NBC’s plan to move his “Tonight Show” 30 minutes later. Despite all the hoopla, it’s really a simple query.

If O’Brien’s deal says his “Tonight Show” will be broadcast at 11:35 p.m. (or the equivalent post-local news slot in the markets that air him earlier), then NBC would be in violation of his contract by attempting to bump him.

If there isn’t any time-slot language in his deal, O’Brien’s refusal to take the 12:05 slot would put him in breach if he doesn’t do his show, presumably allowing NBC to void his deal without paying him off. More…