UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif., Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Conan O'Brien says he cannot accept NBC's decision to boot "The Tonight Show" from its traditional 11:35 p.m. slot, saying it would destroy the franchise.
The comedian's statement Tuesday followed a decision by NBC to cancel its 4-month-old prime time series "The Jay Leno Show" and give Leno a half-hour show immediately following local newscasts.
"I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its ('The Tonight Show's') destruction," said O'Brien, who inherited "Tonight" from Leno last year.
"Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move 'The Tonight Show' to 12:05 to accommodate 'The Jay Leno Show' at 11:35. For 60 years 'The Tonight Show' has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying 'The Tonight Show' into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting."
NBC's decision to move Leno was the result of lackluster ratings and unhappiness among NBC affiliates with the effect it had on ratings for local news shows.
O'Brien said the plan was also unfair to Jimmy Fallon, who took over O'Brien's "Late Night" show, which airs after "Tonight."
O'Brien addressed speculation he would move to another network, as well.
"I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next," O'Brien said. "My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work."
The Los Angeles Times said NBC is declining to comment on O'Brien's statement.
Sources told TMZ that NBC is working on a deal that would re-install Leno as host of "The Tonight Show" if O'Brien actually leaves the series.
The entertainment news Web site also cited unnamed sources as saying the two entertainers have not spoken since the late-night shake-up was announced.