Conan O'Brien refuses "Tonight Show" move, NBC quiet

Wed Jan 13, 2010 4:58pm EST
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Conan O'Brien said on Tuesday he will not carry on as host of NBC's "The Tonight Show" if the struggling network moves the program to an after-midnight slot as part of a revamped evening line-up.

O'Brien, who took over NBC's flagship talk show from Jay Leno just seven months ago, said it was "an enormous personal disappointment" to see his program moved to the later time.

"My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of 'The Tonight Show,' he said in a statement. "But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction."

O'Brien did not say he was quitting NBC and noted he had no offer from rival networks.

Some media analysts said O'Brien's decision effectively put him in a position of asking NBC to make a choice between him and Leno -- and that Leno would be the likely winner.

Paul Kagan, CEO of PK Worldmedia, told Reuters he expected that O'Brien would move to Fox or another network and Leno would get his old job back on "The Tonight Show."

There was no immediate comment from NBC, which is owned by General Electric Co.

"My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew and I can do a show that we can be proud for a company that values our work," O'Brien said.   Continued...