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October 25, 2014

Jay Leno May Move Back to Late Night

by Scott Harris, posted Jan 7th 2010 2:50PM
Since its fall debut, 'The Jay Leno Show' has been a ratings disappointment and a source of controversy among NBC affiliates, so when reports surfaced earlier today that the series had been canceled it wasn't much of a shock. No, the real shock is that Leno may not be getting fired -- he may be getting a promotion.

Yes, according to TMZ, Leno will be returning to the 11:30 time slot and, presumably, the chair at 'The Tonight Show.' What this means for Conan O'Brien and his replacement at 'Late Night,' Jimmy Fallon, is unclear.

Check out more coverage at PopEater.

"We've learned Jay's 10:00 PM show will go on hiatus February 1," the TMZ report states. "After the Olympics, Jay will take back his 11:30 PM time slot. What has not been decided -- whether Jay's show will be a half hour, followed by Conan, or whether Jay's show will be an hour and NBC says sayonara to Mr. O'Brien."

In an updated report from the New York Times, two senior NBC executives have since said that the network is working on a revised plan that would move Jay Leno back to 11:35, with Conan to follow a half-hour later. Meanwhile, Jimmy Fallon would begin at 1:05AM.

According to the report, the changes would go into effect after the network's Olympic coverage ends on Feb. 28.

The network also expressed its support for Conan. "We have the best comedy team in the business," it said in a statement. "We remain committed to keeping Conan O'Brien on NBC. He is a valued part of our late-night line-up, as he has been for more than 16 years and is one of the most respected entertainers on television."

Speaking during tonight's show, Jay Leno said, "I don't think there is any truth to the rumors. See, it's always been my experience that NBC only cancels you when you're in first place. So we are fine. We are OK."

This latest bombshell comes after a day of furious reports and denials from all parties involved. This morning, the website FTV.com reported that 'The Jay Leno Show' would be ending after the Olympics. This led to a rebuttal by NBC, as reported in The NY Times, where NBC insisted Leno wasn't going anywhere.

"Jay Leno is one of the most compelling entertainers in the world today," the network stated in a press release. "As we have said all along, Jay's show has performed exactly as we anticipated on the network. It has, however, presented some issues for our affiliates. Both Jay and the show are committed to working closely with them to find ways to improve the performance."

Those issues mainly revolve around 'The Jay Leno Show''s weak lead-in to local news broadcasts; the show, which is down a whopping 45 percent over last year's numbers in the key 18-49 time slot, has been blamed for steep declines at affiliated stations who rely on revenue from their news broadcasts to remain solvent. Thus, while NBC's statement that the show is performing according to plan is technically true -- the ratings, while minuscule, do meet the bare minimum necessary for the network itself to turn a profit -- the overall influence of the show has led to protests from many affiliates who wish to return to scripted programming.

In light of this newest turn of events, however, it appears as though NBC's statement may be more of an endorsement of Leno than a denial of cancellation rumors. Though it seems counter-intuitive to reward a performer for headlining one of the worst ratings disasters in television history, Leno remains a popular figure and a valuable commodity to a fourth place network that has few of either. And with ratings on 'The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien' taking a beating from a surging 'Late Show with David Letterman,' it's possible that NBC has decided to try and kill two birds with one stone by replacing both 'Leno' and 'O'Brien' in one fell swoop.

Just what will fill the spot vacated by Leno if these reports are true remains unclear. While NBC has ordered an unusually large slate of pilots for the upcoming development season, those shows are unlikely to be ready by the end of the Olympics next month. More likely is the idea that NBC will move up scheduled mid-season replacements from spring or summer runs and air them in 'Leno''s place, which may buy the network enough time to develop new properties.

One thing is sure: whatever the truth is, chances are we'll be hearing a lot more from everyone involved over the next few days.

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