Conan/Leno madness: the 5 big unanswered legal questions
10:54 AM PST 12/21/2010 by Eriq Gardner
NBC may be on the verge of more "Law & Order"...and we're not talking about what's replacing Jay Leno at 10 pm.
NBC brass and Conan O'Brien reportedly have reached a detente, with Conan said to be receiving a payout and the ability to appear on another network before his contract expires, according to news reports.
Let's assume a deal is made. We don't think this ends the legal fallout from this saga. Here are five big unanswered questions:
- Besides the $$$ changing hands, what else is in the settlement between Conan & NBC? For instance, are there stipulations about what one party can say about the other? Given how ruthless Conan has been toward NBC and Leno, can NBC negotiate a deal that will muzzle CoCo and vice versa?
- Will Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and the Masturbating Bear follow Conan wherever he goes? NBC and O'Brien are likely negotiating whether the intellectual property created on "Late Night" and "The Tonight Show" stays with NBC or goes with Conan. If you'll recall, this became an issue when David Letterman left NBC for CBS.
- NBC has been telling folks that it had to make a move to quell its unhappy affiliate stations. If Fox is indeed courting Conan, what about the network's affiliates who are tied into their own contracts with syndicators and may not want a late night host whose ratings weren't fantastic?
- We know what NBC thinks about O'Brien's job performance (thanks, Dick Ebersol). Could Conan sue NBC for defamation for damaging his effort to get a job elsewhere? What about a possible suit by NBC against Conan for things he said on the air?
- How will this debacle influence future negotiations in Hollywood between A-list talent with leverage and studio/producers? Will the ordeal push one side to try to get more specific with contract language and the other side to pull back from long-term contractual commitments?
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