Jay Leno is slated to leave “The Tonight Show” next May after seventeen years. Conan O’Brien, who has been putting his time in at the late slot for fifteen years, will take over as the host of the show. But, Leno won’t be moving very far.
NBC announced today that Leno will take over the 10 p.m. weeknight slot next fall, leaving him just the summer to relax before returning to work. Rumors had been circulating for a while that NBC didn’t want to lose Leno and the possibility of him hosting another show for NBC seemed like a good possibility. The rumors were sparked by NBC’s reported fear of losing Leno’s viewers as possibilities of him moving to another network such as Fox were thrown around.
Now, O’Brien will not have to compete against Leno, but there is another problem. Will O’Brien finally get the top late night spot, only to still be overshadowed by Leno, who will be in the prime time, which has more viewers?
There is little doubt that this move of Leno to primetime is a plan by NBC CEO and President Jeffrey Zucker to try to pull NBC’s ratings up. Lately, the network has been suffering, with “ER” finally coming to an end after 15 seasons and the once powerful “Law & Order” losing viewers. One show that NBC thought would take off – “My Own Worst Enemy” with Christian Slater – has not been doing as well as hoped.
Many wondered if Leno was ready to leave NBC anyhow after announcing his departure. Rumors were that he regretted the decision and had hinted to wanting to stay on television, whether it was with NBC or not. Sources say that when Zucker did finally sit down with Leno to talk about the 10 p.m. weekend spot, Leno accepted almost immediately. Of course, this keeps Leno busy, but also money in his pocket – it is speculated that he could make as much as $40 million a year.