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[TV] NBC Preparing Exit Strategy for Jay Leno on The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon Being Primed to Take Over
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 03.03.2013

The Hollywood Reporter revealed that according to two high-level industry sources, NBC is moving toward a May announcement that the 2013-14 television season will be the last one for Jay Leno as the host of The Tonight Show.

Sources expect NBC to move Jimmy Fallon to replace Leno for the coveted 11:35 time slot. Reportedly there will be a soft launch during the summer of 2014 before a formal fall kickoff.

A rep for Jay Leno stated: "We do not speculate on rumor." How NBC will execute the transition plan for the popular late-night talk show remains to be seen. Leno has infamously been reluctant to leave his position as host and would be even more so reluctant to retire before his rival, Late Show host David Letterman on CBS.

Sources also believe that NBC is bringing in Fallon out of concern that the younger-skewing demo is moving toward Jimmy Kimmel on ABC. ABC moved Kimmel to the 11:35 time slot in January. A source familiar with NBC said, "The more time Jimmy Kimmel is in that slot, the more the young audience goes that way, the harder it is for Jimmy [Fallon] to keep that audience."

The Tonight Show with Leno is still performing well for NBC, but Kimmel is more competitive in the 18-49 demographic. A network veteran reportedly stated, "Kimmel has done extremely well. Jay wins overall, but on any given night, it's neck-and-neck in 18-49. I understand where they might have fear and also feel that they own the solution [in Fallon.]"

Leno also took a big pay cut from his $30 million salary when NBC owner, Comcast, imposed layoffs last August. One observer states the benefit of NBC announcing the Leno-Fallon transition before or at the May upfronts would "get the benefit of selling Jay's last year -- again."


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