Media Money with Julia Boorstin

What Now for Conan and NBC?

NBC's   late night drama has finally come to a close — this morning Conan O'Brien and the network inked a deal.

Conan's last show will be tomorrow, Friday January 22, as he hands over the Tonight Show slot back to Jay Leno. The terms of the deal weren't disclosed, other than the fact that Conan will be free to "pursue other opportunities after September 1, 2010.

But sources confirm that NBC is paying out $44 million — $32 million to Conan and $12 million to his production team.

So what now?

NBC is under pressure for the 10 pm hour to perform. After the Olympics — which the network has already acknowledged it'll lose money — the network's new shows and their ratings will be under a microscope. Hopes are high for the new scripted drama, "Parenthood," as well as the new reality TV show from Jerry Seinfeld, "The Marriage Ref." Meanwhile NBC will be pumping lots of money and energy into the pilots it’s developing for the fall — it has nearly 20 on the docket, more than it's had in the works for years.

So what for Conan? Other than depositing his cash and defending his decision that put some 200 workers out of a job?

We'll see if Fox is interested in buying into a late night franchise. For now, considering how strong their syndicated shows have been in that time slot (shows like The Simpsons) and how disappointing Conan's ratings have been, it seems unlikely unless Fox gets a *really* good deal. There's also been speculation that Conan would be a good fit on a cable channel like HBO.

Perhaps in that less restrictive cable environment, he'd be freer to be a bit wackier, which worked well for him and his team in his previous late night slot.

Questions?  Comments?