I think we can now tell you with reasonable definitiveness:

  Conan O'Brien's brief reign as host of "Tonight" will end next Friday, Jan. 22.

  People Magazine just  posted this on its Web site, and People does not get stuff wrong. People said it was "likely" and ran a blind quote saying it would end next week.

"Tonight" was planning on a pre-scheduled hiatus anyway. But it looks like Conan won't be coming  back after that. (TMZ, meanwhile, reports that Jay has signed his deal to return to "Tonight"; any bets to be taken that his first show will be the first night after the Olympics - if not sooner? But you should also know that NBC has insisted - INSISTED - that the TMZ report is wrong. )

  But I am of a mind to believe People - and NBC seems less willing to debunk that one, though people inside do point to that planned hiatus.

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Is this sad? Ha! "Sad" is Haiti. This is just television.

  Please allow me just a couple of words here -- I have been a longtime fan of O'Brien's, beginning even before he was on the air. I attended his second test show -- never televised -- and remember the tremendous shellacking he took afterward in the press. He never whined, and honestly, his utterances on all this the past few days haven't been a whine either.  It's been comedy, and it's been business, and it's been principle, too. And I believe Conan's a principled guy.

  Next stop - Fox!