Saturday, January 16, 2010

NBC settlement: If Conan trashes the network, he'll pay

It seems like the suits at NBC really were upset by all of those barbs slung at their network by Conan O'Brien. According to TMZ, the "Tonight" host's severance package calls for him to keep mum about his former employers. "Sources tell us NBC wants a liquidated damages clause if Conan says anything disparaging about the network once he leaves. Essentially that means there is a clause in the contract that says Conan will automatically pay a predetermined amount of money if he says bad things about NBC."

TMZ also reports that "NBC will be paying Conan a hefty sum, but that will be offset by any amount Conan makes for his next hosting gig. So if Conan makes a deal with FOX, NBC can reduce the amount it pays Conan by the amount FOX forks over." (This has led some wags to suggest that FOX should pay Conan a dollar so NBC will have to continue to pay him big bucks, but it's unlikely it'll play out that way.)

I was looking back at the transcript of a conference call Leno did before beginning his 10 o'clock show, trying to find this quote: "You know, I don't have an agent, I don't have a manager. I'm not one of those guys. It's a handshake. Okay guys, you know, just - why don't you keep paying me what you paid me and we'll see what happens. Okay great. Thank you. I mean real simple. I mean that's what it is. I'm not - I don't want to own the show. I don't want to be, you know, I never wanted to be a landlord, have rental properties. I like writing jokes, going to work and telling my jokes. I don't want to be involved in any other part of it."

Very disingenous, Jay. He may not have an agent and a manager, but you can be darn sure that he has a lawyer, and a very aggressive one. Sources say that Leno's contract called for an $80 million penalty if "The Jay Leno Show" was canceled... which makes Conan's $40 million payout look downright thrifty. And if FOX snaps him up, NBC will save even more.