NBC Universal President and CEO Jeff Zucker said Monday the company has made the right business decision in bringing former Tonight Show host Jay Leno back to his former 11: 35 timeslot, even as the move paves the way out for longtime NBC late-night personality Conan O'Brien.
"We think that Jay - who was the ratings champ in late night for almost 15 years - will go back to 11:35 and be successful," Zucker said on Charlie Rose. "What Conan decides to do obviously is up to Conan. We don't wish him any ill will at all."
Close to two weeks ago, NBC first proposed that The Jay Leno Show move from prime time to 11:35 and that The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon move back half-hour each, to 12:05 and 1:05, respectively. Unfortunately, O'Brien did not approve of the change of the show and released a lengthy and emotional statement expressing such last week. Since then, O'Brien and NBC have begun discussing a possible settlement that would allow O'Brien to leave the network and launch a new show somewhere else.
Zucker, 44, would not say if or how much he and others at the network had believed O'Brien would accept the move back, but said he had hoped the Tonight Show host would accept it in light of the show's disappointing performance. "I feel terribly that Conan isn't going to be at NBC where he was given the chance 17 years ago and was a homegrown star and that it will ultimately end this way. I don't feel good about that," Zucker said.
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