NBC Universal, faced with Conan O’Brien’s defiance, is taking what insiders tell me is “a super tough threatening position” over his refusal to host The Tonight Show at 12:05 AM instead of 11:35 PM.
“Someone’s got to show NBCU that big greedy corporate dickheads can’t win,” one of Conan’s manager-agent-lawyer-public relations “Team Conan” representatives told me. And while Jeff Zucker has not stepped up and taken responsibility for this mess he set in in motion in the first place — by replacing Leno with Conan O’Brien as host of The Tonight Show even though Jay was No. 1 in his time slot at the time — he’s been busy behind the scenes. I’ve already reported how Zucker has been privately blaming Conan for the current debacle, saying “He let me down” because The Tonight Show for the last 7 months since O’Brien took over has been losing out to David Letterman in both eyeballs and advertiser-coveted demographics.
Bad enough that Zucker made Conan hear about the planned move in the first place from the media.
But now the NBCU chief has been talking tough during the negotiations with Team Conan. To counter O’Brien’s principled public statement which the late night host issued this week, Zucker “is threatening to ice Conan”, according to his reps. “Zucker said, ‘I’ll keep you off the air for 3 1/2 years.’ Which doesn’t have a chance in hell of happening. What I really think Zucker wants is to hold him off the market for at least six months to a year until the dust settles and Leno is secure and Conan is squelched.” One rep even compared Zucker to “Darth Vader” because the NBCU chief “has been so evil” about this.
Read More: By NIKKI FINKE, Deadline Hollywood