LJWorld.com weblogs The Free Market
A brief summary of what happened. In 2004, amid worries that O'Brien would leave NBC since he was getting some offers, NBC promised O'Brien that he would take over the Tonight Show in 2009, essentially forcing Leno to retire. Leno didn't want to retire and was #1 in the ratings, and with 2009 approaching Leno began to get offers from other networks. Fearing Leno would leave and compete against NBC, it offered Leno a show in a primetime slot to keep him at NBC. O'Brien took over the Tonight Show, but hasn't achieved the same ratings success that Leno was when he left, and Leno's primetime show has failed for several reasons. Now NBC is moving Leno back to the 11:35 timeslot, and offered O'Brien to keep the Tonight Show, but to start at 12:05. O'Brien has refused. I don't know when the switch will be made, but for now both shows are currently at the old timeslots, and both hosts have taken several swipes at NBC and at each other.
Now personally I like O'Brien's show and will be sad to see him go. He shouldn't have a problem landing another gig, but I don't see it being at the 11:35 timeslot on another network as ABC is sticking with Kimmel and currently Fox isn't offering anything (CW anyone?). HBO or some other cable channel seems like the most probable choice. I wonder if O'Brien should have sucked it up and taken the 12:05 slot. He would have a chance to build his show, and if Leno failed again he would get moved back to 11:35. He's not going to get another chance at the Tonight Show, so it's better to make the most of it now. But he does have a point about how the Tonight Show at 11:35 is tradition. In addition the hard feelings and wounded ego might make a fresh start somewhere else the best option.