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Conan O'Brien Gets Last Laugh, Poll Says

And the winner of 'The Tonight Show' debacle is ... Conan O'Brien! Meanwhile, from Fox to CBS to NBC to Leno to Letterman, the list of losers is long, indeed.
Author:

NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- And the winner of

The Tonight Show

debacle is ... Conan O'Brien -- at least, that's verdict of the readers of

TheStreet

.

Maybe it's the fact that O'Brien left

General Electrics'

(GE) - Get Report

NBC with a severance package of $45 million for himself and his staff, even though he was only on the show for 11 months.

Or maybe it's the rumors that Fox, owned by

News Corp.

(NWSA) - Get Report

, is interested in hiring O'Brien and giving him a new talk show.

But for now, O'Brien is, in a sense, homeless; News Corp. executives admitted as much when they said last week that no serious negotiations had taken place yet.

"Certainly if the program-people can show us that we could do it, and be fairly confident of making a profit on it, we'd do it in a flash, News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch said in a media conference call discussing his company's second fiscal quarter.

Certainly, if News Corp. thinks O'Brien can benefit its bottom line, O'Brien could expect to be well compensated -- as News Corp. can apparently afford to so. Rumors have been circulating this week that executives at the conglomerate's Fox show

American Idol

would be willing to offer

Howard Stern

a pay package commensurate with his current $100 million-a-year salary at

Sirius XM

(SIRI) - Get Report

to

take over from Simon Cowell

when Cowell leaves the show at the end of the season.

So that's the latest on O'Brien -- who seems to have landed on his feet after NBC and Jay Leno did their level best to take his legs out from underneath him. Indeed, some might say that while O'Brien waits to hear back from News Corp., he might as well take a vacation; with all that new money in his bank, he can certainly afford to do so. Also, NBC has freed him to pursue other opportunities only after September 1.

All of which goes a long way toward explaining why readers of

TheStreet

consider O'Brien the ultimate winner of the

Tonight Show

farce, affording him more than 37% of the votes in our

TheStreet Recommends

poll

.

As for the others in this debacle, not all have fared as well. While many of O'Brien's industry peers have taken O'Briens side during the past few weeks, Leno, for one, has generated considerable ill-will.

After making his way back into the show

following the cancellation of

The Jay Leno Show,

Leno has been branded, by many, a bully; Leno recently attempted a form of damage control, appearing on

The Oprah Winfrey Show

and attempting to portray himself as a victim.

Readers of

TheStreet,

apparently, aren't buying it, with only 12% of voters in our poll declaring Leno to be the winner in the dispute, despite the fact that he reclaimed the show that many consider the brass ring in the late-night business.

CBS's

(CBS) - Get Report

David Letterman, meanwhile, strongly benefited from the scandal. When

The Tonight Show

ratings slid after O'Brien took the helm of the show, Letterman claimed the #1 spot in the time slot. Moreover, Letterman has clearly been deriving pleasure from making fun of NBC -- and, in particular, his arch-nemesis Jay Leno -- during his sow. More than 17% of the voters in our poll shared that assessment, declaring Letterman the winner of the whole fiasco.

The rest of the votes were split between Fox, NBC and CBS: Fox pulled 8.6% of the votes; CBS culled 3.2%; NBC, GE and

Comcast

(CMCSA) - Get Report

, meanwhile, were the big losers, garnering a mere 3.1% of the votes.

And in perhaps the most telling tally of all, more than 18% of voters declared that there were, in fact, no winners at all -- which seems about right, to us.

-- Reported by Andrea Tse in New York

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>>And the Winner of the 'Tonight Show' Debacle Is...

>>Conan O'Brien, NBC Reach Accord

>>Sirius XM's Howard Stern: Bound for 'Idol' ?

>>Howard Stern

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