Still, a report late Thursday from The Daily Beast, citing sources, said O'Brien and the network were close to a deal in which he'd get a payout and be free to appear on another network before his contract expires. And The New York Times reported that "intense negotiations" continued, and one executive connected to the talks said an agreement was possible as soon as Friday.
TMZ reported earlier that moving Leno from the 10/9c to 11:35/10:35c would require NBC to negotiate a new deal with him, and that the deal was done. But the network rep said that isn't the case.
Leno's publicist, Dick Guttman, told TVGuide.com Thursday he believed Leno would accept the 11:35 slot if it were offered. No surprise there: Leno said in November he would accept the slot.
"I think Jay would be very happy to resume" at 11:35, Guttman said. "He had a wonderful relationship with the audience that tuned in at that time, and that's valued on both sides. I'm sure he valued it as much as the public did. He would've been very happy to continue."
Additional reporting by Joyce Eng