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An Open Letter from Conan O’Brien

People of Earth:

In the last few days, I’ve been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I’ve been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I’ve been absurdly lucky. That said, I’ve been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. 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. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.

Yours,

Conan

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Video: Last Night’s Appearance By First Lady Michelle Obama on The Jay Leno Show

Leno wanted to know what she whispers to her husband after his speeches.
“I usually ask him, did he take out the garbage?” .

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Obama Leads Letterman to Ratings Win

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President Obama and Dave Letterman

President Obama and Dave Letterman

We’ve been told by the pundits on cable news, that in their conventional wisdom, President Barack Obama is totally over-exposed. Right? Well no one gave that memo to Dave Letterman’s Late Show audience.

According to the New York Times, the night Obama appeared was the most-watched “Late Show” in four years, with a total of 7.218 million viewers. So the conventionally wise pundits in Washington, might want to re-think that memo. Either that or start calling it ‘conventional speculation‘.

New York Times/Bill Carter—Landing an appearance by the president seems to be a game-changer at least for one show in late-night television. On Monday night, President Obama lifted David Letterman to his most-watched “Late Show” in four years, with a total of 7.218 million viewers.

That was more than enough to propel Mr. Letterman, on CBS, past his late-night rival on NBC, Conan O’Brien, in every audience category for the first time since Mr. O’Brien became host of the “Tonight Show” in June.

It also gave Mr. Letterman a bigger audience Monday than his longtime rival Jay Leno, whose new prime-time hour on NBC hit its lowest number to date, with 5.81 million viewers. (Mr. Leno can still claim precedence in one area, however. When he was still host of “Tonight” and Mr. Obama made the first late-night appearance by any sitting president last March, Mr. Leno attracted 14.6 million viewers.)

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