Conan Keeping Late Night $hip Afloat by Natalie Finn Thu, 29 Nov 2007 06:10:22 PM PST Thanks to Conan O'Brien, the staff of Late Night is going to have a happy holiday season after all. NBC, which agreed to issue paychecks to non-writers until the end of this month, confirmed Thursday that the Emmy-winning host is going to take over for the foreseeable future, paying the salaries of nearly 80 Late Night with Conan O'Brien employees out of his own pocket. O'Brien's move comes a couple weeks after David Letterman's camp announced that the CBS host's Worldwide Pants production arm is taking financial care of Late Show and Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson staffers who otherwise would be up the river without a paycheck just in time for the holidays. While Saturday Night Live's production and other non-writing staff were laid off as the third week of the Writers Guild of America strike came to a close, NBC eventually decided to not fire The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night employees until Nov. 30. The cream of the late-night crop has been in repeats since the strike officially kicked off Nov. 5, with none of the aforementioned hosts willing to cross WGA picket lines. (FYI: Leno reached deep into the archives Monday, airing an episode shot during the firstas in H.W.Bush administration.) Leno, Letterman, Ferguson, Jimmy Kimmel and O'Brien, who shared a writing Emmy this year with the rest of his now-striking Late Night scribes and who flexed his funny bone for years as a writer for The Simpsons and SNL, have talked to their networks about returning, but apparently no offer seemed worth taking. Not so for Carson Daly, who is back to work this week, much to the displeasure of his non-brethren at the WGA, which picketed Thursday outside NBC Studios in Burbank, where Last Call is shot. "We're disappointed at Carson Daly's decision to return to work," the WGA said in a statement Tuesday. "Mr. Daly is not a writer and not a member of the WGA, unlike other late-night hosts who have all resisted network pressure and honored our writers' picket lines." Daly has said that, while he feels for his writers, he doesn't want to see the other 75 members of his staff get the boot. "As a non-WGA member I feel I have supported my four Guild writers and their strike by suspending production for a month," he said. As picketers converged on NBC, the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers concluded their fourth day of renewed contract talks since both sides agreed to return to the table. The parties instituted a media blackout, so details of what's been going on behind closed doors haven't been particularly forthcoming, but the AMPTP did announce Thursday that studios and networks have offered writers a "New Economic Partnership" that would result in $130 million in additional compensation from new-media channels, such as Internet streaming and cell phones. "In response, the WGA has asked for time to study the proposals," the alliance said in a statement. "While we strongly preferred to continue discussions, we respect and understand the WGAs desire to review the proposals. We look forward to resuming talks on Tuesday, December 4." Meanwhile, the WGA East had some success Thursday, announcing that it's reached a tentative two-year deal with ABC News on behalf of 250 writers, editors and other employees who have been toiling in New York and Washington without a contract for the last three years. ABC News said in a statement that it was pleased, after three long years of negotiation, to be able to make a deal. We value our WGA-represented employees, and we look forward to a positive ratification vote that will allow both sides to put this behind them." WGA East executive director Mona Mangan echoed the sentiment, saying in a statement, Were pleased to secure, finally, a fair contract for our members." A feat that the WGA hasn't yet been able to pull off for its 500 CBS News staffers, who balked at a new deal that would have allowed CBS to delegate certain tasks to non-union writers and put the squeeze on local-radio scribes. While they haven't walked out yet, CBS News writers have authorized the WGA to call a strike, a development that put the kibosh on a Katie Couric-moderated presidential debate the Tiffany Network had been planning to host Dec. 10. The Democratic National Committee canceled the event after Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards and others said that they would honor picket lines in the event of a walkout. The WGA called the candidates' unwillingness to cross the line a "concern that could have been avoided entirely if CBS would simply sit down and negotiate a fair contract for its news and entertainment employees. Instead, CBS chose to make a decision that stifles the democratic process. In other money-related matters, a UCLA economist said Thursday that the strike should "only" cost Los Angeles County about $380 millionnot the $1 billion analysts were projectingeven if the stoppage lasts as long as the 1988 WGA strike, which went on for nearly six months.