As you've most likely heard by now, Conan O'Brien and NBC have reached a deal, wherein Conan will be off NBC as of Friday, and Conan will recieve $33 million, while his staff (some 200 people), split $12 million. I'm guessing that constitutes some 6 months of severance for each staffer, but that's conjecture. Conan, being the classy man that he is, has said he'll be chipping in some of his severance to his staff.
I've watched Conan for years on Late Night, and I haven't missed an episode his Tonight Show since it began seven months ago (thanks largely to Hulu. Needless to say, I'm sad to see the end of Conan's time on NBC, but it is exciting to think of what he'll do next.
NBC justifies their decision because Conan's been doing poor in the Neilsen ratings against David Letterman, compared to how Jay Leno was doing. Frankly, this isn't much of a surprise, since Dave and Jay both served a similar demographic, and Conan was attractive to a younger crowd. However, this is based solely on the Neilsen Ratings, which frankly, I don't think are likely to be very accurate for Conan's demographic.
Frankly, while I've watched every single episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, the number that I've watched live I can probably count on one hand. People my age, more and more, have decided to consume television differently, and in such a way that Neilsen's rating system simply can't measure. TV Executive's (or more accurately, advertising executives) are incapable of measuring success of programming by any measure other than (and frankly more reliable than) Neilsen's methods. Plus, though advertising on the Internet is getting more valuable, it's still a fraction of what advertisers are willing to spend on TV, even though the data to support the advertising is far worse.
In the long run, I think NBC is betting on the wrong horse. Jay's well established, but his demographic is getting older, while Conan's demographic is still on it's way up. Mostly though, as Media changes, Conan's demographic is more willing to follow it where it's going, which in the long run is the real story here. However, despite Revision3's generous offer, I just don't see Conan taking the plunge to a fully Internet-based show, even though I believe there is a very good chance Conan could make it work with the aide of savvy people like the folks at Rev3.
I look forward to seeing where Conan goes next, though I'd love if Letterman announced his retirement and Conan took over the Late Show, once again cementing that program's status as the 'Fuck NBC' late night program (remember, NBC basically screwed Letterman out of the Tonight Show nearly twenty years ago). However, wherever Conan goes next, I know I'll be watching.
Can't say I'll watch Jay though.