NBC's Tonight Show host Conan O'Brien (R) and wife Liza Powell arrive at the 61st annual Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California September 20, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Late-night television comedian Conan O'Brien said on Tuesday he would not host "The Tonight Show" on NBC after the network unveiled a plan to move the show to after midnight to reinstate popular Jay Leno at 11:35 p.m.
O'Brien said in a statement released Tuesday that it was "an enormous personal disappointment" to see his program moved to a later time.
"My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show," he said. "But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction."
"The Tonight Show" on NBC has for decades been the standard of late-night television and a major money maker for General Electric's NBC.
Leno hosted the show for years until 2009 when NBC installed O'Brien into the slot and gave Leno his own show at 10 p.m. in an effort to cut costs and bring Leno's audience into prime time.
But the move failed, causing NBC on Sunday to say "The Jay Leno Show" would cease airing in its 10 p.m. slot on Feb 12 and would move to 11:35 p.m. for 30 minutes, pushing O'Brien back to 12:05 a.m.