Leno, announced he will wrap up what will be 22 years of headlining the iconic late-night show. Jimmy Fallon, now host of NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” will transition into new hosting duties on “The Tonight Show” franchise after Leno concludes his run.
Programming plans for the 12:35 a.m. (ET) time period currently are in development and will be announced soon.
Said Leno: “Congratulations Jimmy. I hope you’re as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you’re the old guy. If you need me, I’ll be at the garage.”
Said Fallon: “I’m really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow.”
“Jay Leno is an entertainment icon, making millions of people laugh every weeknight for more than 20 years,” said Steve Burke, NBCUniversal CEO. “His long reign as the highest-rated late-night host is a testament to his work ethic and dedication to his viewers and to NBC. We are purposefully making this change when Jay is #1, just as Jay replaced Johnny Carson when he was #1. Jimmy Fallon is a unique talent and this is his time. I’m thrilled he will become the sixth host of ‘The Tonight Show’ at exactly the right moment, in conjunction with our coverage of next year’s Winter Olympic Games from Sochi, Russia.”
Leno has hosted “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” since taking over the reins from television icon Johnny Carson in 1992.
“The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” has ranked #1 ahead of its ABC and CBS time-period competition in 18-49 viewers and total viewers for each season since Leno’s return in March 2010 and for the 14 seasons before his departure in May 2009.
The reports of Fallon replacing Leno began in March, when rumors of Leno’s retirement began circulating. Leno is contracted with The Tonight Show through 2014.
NBC had told The NY Times Fallon would start in Fall 2014 at the latest, so it looks like the timetable has been moved back a bit.
Three years ago, NBC’s effort to replace Leno with Conan O’Brien ended in recriminations and a reversal. Leno was reinstated as host after only seven months, and NBC got weeks of negative news coverage. Conan, of course, ended up on TBS Late Night.
Leno’s “Tonight” show still regularly leads in the late-night ratings. But by turning to Fallon, NBC hopes to counter what it regards as its biggest late-night competitor of the future, Jimmy Kimmel, who in January moved his show on ABC from midnight to 11:35 p.m.
TV execs speculated that NBC could not afford to wait too long to promote Fallon, or it might risk having Kimmel lock up the young-adult viewers who are the economic lifeblood of late-night TV.
NBC has already begun work on a new studio in its HQ at 30 Rockefeller Plaza as the home for the new “Tonight Show”.