For more than 15 years, you've seen him right here following NewsChannel 11 at 10, but starting next fall Jay Leno will appear before the local news.
The network announced on the "Today" show Tuesday that Leno will host a show on weeknights at 9 p.m., after he leaves the "Tonight" show. The deal not only prevents Leno from moving to another network and competing with O'Brien, it also has the potential to be a big cost savings for NBC. Dramas at 9 p.m. used to be a mainstay of network schedules, but they have been fading - particularly on NBC. One reason is digital video recorders; more people are watching shows they taped earlier than the live 9 p.m. shows.
There's no title or exact format for Leno's new show yet. Network executives say some elements of the Tonight Show will carry over to primetime, such as monologues and headlines, but it will also include more segments outside the studio.
NBC made the announcement four years ago that O'Brien would take over the Tonight Show. That led some to speculate that Leno would leave and go to ABC, where he could possibly compete against O'Brien.
Leno told NBC's Brian Williams that a deal probably would have come together fairly quickly, but he couldn't really talk with anyone else because he is still under contract. He says he's looking forward to the new show, and calls it a whole new challenge. "You should leave these things at the top of your game before you move onto something else and - so that's what this is. This seems like a noble experiment that we'll try, and I think it'll be a lot of fun. And we'll be able to do some things we couldn't do on the Tonight Show as well," said Leno.
Leno officially leaves "The Tonight Show" at the end of May with O'Brien taking over as host June 1st of next year. Former Saturday Night Live star Jimmy Fallon will take over O'Brien's hosting duties on "Late Night" beginning in March of 2009.
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