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If and when it ever gets officially announced, NBC’s settlement with Conan O’Brien will go down as one of the strangest in Hollywood dealmaking history.
Forget the size of the reported $40 million-or-so payment, which could approach what NBC might have had to pay Conan had it lost a breach of contract lawsuit. And forget that NBC is apparently keeping the Masturbating Bear and other intellectual property in this divorce.
What makes the potential pact so strange is the context.
Here we have two parties huddling together in private on the verge of a deal while continuing to pummel each other repeatedly in public.
One moment, NBC honchos are at the dealmaking table, exchanging terms of divorce, including a reported non-disparagement clause.
The next, Dick Ebersol is blabbing to The New York Times and Jeff Zucker is going on the Charlie Rose show branding Conan a failure.
Meanwhile, night after night, O’Brien is using NBC’s own forum to ridicule the network and its leaders.
Journalists have been tripping over themselves to report confirmation of a deal, and yet, no official announcent — merely continued verbal jousting. Very surreal.
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