NBC’s Ebersol: ‘What this is really about is an astounding failure by Conan.’ O’Brien: ‘It’s been a real honor to sit in the seat occupied by Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno and Jay Leno.’

Jan 15, 2010  •  Post A Comment

A top NBC executive defended Jay Leno, saying that he is returning to late night because Conan O’Brien’s ratings were disappointing, The New York Times reports.

Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports, said that “what this is really all about is an astounding failure by Conan.” Ebersol was interviewed by veteran Times’ TV reporter Bill Carter.

Ebersol also criticized the verbal zings being thrown on air at NBC this week by O’Brien and CBS’ David Letterman, saying it was “chicken-hearted and gutless to blame a guy you couldn’t beat in the ratings.”

Ebersol has a long history connected with NBC latenight.

According to the Times’ article, "Mr. Ebersol said Mr. Leno had not pushed for any of the changes, not the original decision to guarantee Mr. O’Brien the show five years in advance, nor the plan to put Mr. Leno in prime time

“ ‘Jeff and I are big boys,’ Mr. Ebersol said, referring to [NBC Universal chief executive Jeff] Zucker. ‘When we do something big in the public forum and it doesn’t succeed, we know we’ll be the butt of criticism. But you don’t personally attack someone who hasn’t done anything.’ In this case, he added, ‘we bet on the wrong guy.’ "

On last night’s "Tonight Show," Conan continued joking about the situation,opening by saying, "I’m Conan O’Brien, NBC’s Employee of the Month."

He also joked that he’d been contacted to star in a porno movie where the idea was for him to make love to an actress and right before climax he’d be replaced by Jay Leno.

And he made the crack in our headline, above, about sitting in the esteemed seat as host of "The Tonight Show."

Ironically, as the Leno/O’Brien controversy has heated up the ratings for "The Tonight Show" have also improved.

–Elizabeth Jensen and Chuck Ross


  1. Yo Dick,
    How are the Olympics tracking…Terrible. I thought so. How is NBC Sports doing w/o football? Again, I thought so. How about you remember who is in an earlier timeslot that screwed up your affiliates, created by your boss.
    Go back to sports, Dick, and worry about what you know.

  2. Prior to this, I had a lot of respect for Mr. Ebersol who has been able to survive in “management” at NBC for over thirty years. He is (in my opinion) both a brilliant producer and manager, but has now literally destroyed his reputation by being Mr. Zucker’s “bitch.”
    Yes, he does bring up some valid points, but let’s be honest here, Jay never wanted to leave the party and instead of fighting for it back in ’04, just went along with the plan and this will all backfire on himself and NBC.
    Even though Jay’s audience has been loyal, no one is talking about the other host’s audiences, which combined are in the ten million range (Dave, Conan, Stewart, Colbert, Kimmel, Carson, okay, maybe not Daley..).
    What is this fallout really going to cost NBC in terms of ratings in Late Night?

  3. Dick, you are aptly named.

  4. So Zucker and Ebersol are like two peas in the same clueless pod.

  5. Hope Conan has plenty of DICK jokes.

  6. It’s the viewers who have all been Zucked over!
    Dick … oh forget it, it’s too easy.
    NBC = stupidity

  7. Well, all I gotta say about this mess is that Jay Leno, and especially Conan Obrien – neither of them ever could hold a candle to Johnny Carson, or even Steve Allen. So why not find a real personality to put on the tonight Show at it’s former time, and forget all this recent fiasco?

  8. Oh Dick, Dick, yes you, DICK!
    You were a young elitist, arrogant, egotistical hater when I met you and you’ve matured to be at the top of your game. Congratulations! Hopefully, you and the big Zuck are also at the end of your ropes.
    Neither of you have anything worthwhile to add and you’ve been sucking way too long.
    Screw on….. or off, as you like

  9. It is sad that amongst all of the issues in Haiti NBC has so little to do but concentrate on this grouping of pompous asses…..Ebersol, Zucker, Leno and Conan all deserve eachother.
    Pull your heads out of your asses and start focusing on real issues gentlemen. Get focused on your business as NBC is crap right now…..deal with that!

  10. I’m not a big fan of any of the shows playing out in this scenerio, and I’m no fan of the suits either, but I think a lot of what Ebersol is saying is true.(Particularly in the longer NY Times article.)
    The pot shots at the Network are warranted, but the shots at Leno make the other guys look petty and very, very jealous.
    Do you think any one of these guys, if offered the opportunity to take back the show they put in first place, would say no? I guarantee you they would not.
    If Leno actually had the clout to make that kind of big decision, he never would have moved in the first place. Sour grapes.

  11. So typical of a network executive to first come up with one of the stupidest moves in television history (Jay Leno show at 10) and then try and trash Connan after screwing him over. Connan may have had a chance if he had any kind of decent lead in or even half the advertising they did for Leno.

  12. I hope Jay Leno’s “new” show goes down in flames!!!!

  13. You are all idiots. Conan is about to collect big $30 or $40 million buy out. The hell with him. If I pulled this kind of shit on my job they would canned my ass along time ago.
    GO JAY!!!!!!!

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