After weeks of late-night confusion, Conan O’Brien signed a contract to end his 17-year-relationship with NBC yesterday, walking away with $32.5 million for himself and $12 million for his staff.
“In the end, Conan was appreciative of the steps NBC made to take care of his staff and crew, and decided to supplement the severance they were getting out of his own pocket,” Gavin Polone, Conan’s manager, told The Wall Street Journal about the deal, which was mutually agreed upon at at 1 a.m. PST Thursday, reports Radar Online. “Now he just wants to get back on the air as quickly as possible.”
Network sources tell TMZ the “mitigation” clause was removed, which means that Conan will get his full severance of $32.5 million regardless of any other income.
The network will pay $7.5 million to Conan’s Tonight Show staff as well as $4.5 million to the executive producer.
The contract includes a “non-disparagement clause,” meaning Conan will be barred from making digs at the Peacock Network after weeks of insolence in his final Tonight Show monologues. Conan will also not be sign with a competing network until the fall.
Conan’s time as Tonight Show host will end on Friday and NBC is planning a star-studded send-off with Robin Williams and Barry Manilow slated for Thursday, and Tom Hanks and Will Ferrell scheduled for the Friday finale.
The power struggle between Conan, Jay Leno and NBC dates back to 2004, when the network promised the gangly comedian that he would helm the legendary talk show in 2009.
When the time for the late-night swap arrived, Jay was drawing such large ratings that NBC moved him to the 10pm slot to act as Conan’s lead-in.
The plan failed as NBC reported a 35 percent drop in ratings for the 10pm slot with The Jay Leno Show while over at CBS, the Late Show with David Letterman trounced Conan night after night in the ratings war.
In a desperate attempt to stop the ratings hemorrhage NBC cancelled Jay’s variety show earlier this month, suggesting moving The Chin back to 11.35pm, with the Tonight Show shifting to 12.05pm.
Conan refused and since then he and Jay, not to mention every other late night host and comedian, has become embroiled in one of the ugliest public spats in TV history.