NBC replacing Jay Leno with Jimmy Fallon


Jay LenoSounds like the rumors that NBC is replacing Jay Leno with Jimmy Fallon are becoming true. What we did know was Leno was not being renewed in 2014 and that Fallon was likely to get “The Tonight Show” spot. The NY Post had reported Howard Stern, in turn, is being groomed by NBC to take Fallon’s spot for Late Night.

Now, the New York Times reports NBC has made a commitment to Jimmy Fallon as successor to Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. And what’s more, Fallon would bring the show from Burbank back to New York, where it started in 1954.

The reports of Fallon replacing Leno began earlier this month, when rumors of Leno’s retirement began circulating. Leno is contracted with The Tonight Show through 2014.

“The network has made a commitment to Mr. Fallon, the current host of its ‘Late Night’ program, for him to succeed Jay Leno as the next host of ‘Tonight,’ several senior television executives involved in the decision told The NY Times.

NBC has not completed a deal with Fallon yet, but his assent is considered mostly a formality, since the move would represent a significant step up for him. And the network has not settled on an exact timetable for the switch, though it is expected to take place by fall 2014 at the latest, the execs told the paper.

One senior executive who has been involved in the discussions said on Wednesday that “there is no way on earth that this is not going to happen.”

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.

Already there has been sniping between Leno and NBC’s top entertainment executive, Robert Greenblatt, over some jokes Leno made in his monologue about the failure of NBC’s prime-time schedule. Greenblatt, who is responsible for that schedule, directed some pointed criticism at Leno in an e-mail to him. Leno stood his ground in a response, asserting that jokes spoofing the network are part of the job for a late-night host. On Monday, he joked about how the snakes that St. Patrick drove from Ireland came to the US and became NBC executives.

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 quietly begun work on a new studio in its headquarters building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza as the home for the new “Tonight Show,” two executives said. The studio is part of a general reconstruction of the building being undertaken by Comcast, which now owns NBCUniversal outright.

See the NY Times story here.

RBR-TVBR observation: Yes, NBC has not been too nice to Leno over the past few years—even when his ratings are highest in the time slot. What we can expect is more sniping on-air from Leno against NBC brass, which will draw even higher ratings. Leno shouldn’t take it too far, however, as he may have trouble landing elsewhere with a “biting the hand that feeds” rep. This should get interesting.