NBC spends $44 million to dump Conan O’Brien

After two weeks of back room negotiations and public embarassments, NBC today announced the deal is done to dump Conan O’Brien from the Tonight Show and restore Jay Leno as host.

O’Brien’s last show is Friday. Leno will return in March after NBC concludes its Winter Olympics coverage.

According to reports, NBC is paying $44 million to get rid of O’Brien. The settlement includes $32 million directly to Conan and $12 million in severance packages for his staff who relocated from New York to Los Angeles when he took over the show last year.

In the end, the debacle has been a struggle between two failues: Leno, who flopped in a much-hyped five-day-a-week prime time show and O’Brien, who took the Tonight Show from first to last in ratings.