If NBC doesn’t want Jay Leno, Fox wants to give him a new home. The head of Fox’s powerful affiliate board, who represents the majority of the network’s 206 stations around the country, said he favors building a new late-night show around the departing “Tonight Show” host.
“If Fox were to present the right business plan, the affiliate board would be interested,” Steve Pruett, the board chairman, told The NY Post.
The prospect of Leno jumping networks — and gaining a half-hour jump on David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon, who has reportedly been told he is getting Leno’s job — would be a major blow to NBC’s plan for a smooth transition to a younger, hipper “Tonight” show host.
When he leaves, Leno “could take a sizable crowd with him,” says Hollywood manager Howard Lapides, who has repped Carson Daly, Jimmy Kimmel and others. “Fallon will eventually develop his own audience, but it could take years. If Jay Leno was my client I would take him straight to Fox tomorrow.”
Leno remains under contract with NBC through May 2014 and likely has language in his contract that would bar him from negotiating with another network for several more months.
Fox has long been yearning to get into the late night business, but hasn’t been able to find the right personality.
But Leno “would be a different thing altogether,” a Fox source told the paper. “He has more ratings power. We could go at 11 p.m., against the other network newscasts.”