Jay Leno Moving To Prime Time on NBC


Authored by Jon Mercer in Movies and Television
Published on 12-19-2008

Jay Leno, who has hosted “The Tonight Show” on NBC for fifteen years, will now be coming up against shows like “CSI Miami” instead of “The Late Show” with David Letterman. Leno is set to move to NBC’s prime time lineup with a show that is similar to the current “Tonight Show,” but airing each weeknight at ten P.M.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the undisputed king of late night television will make the move to prime time in May of 2009. NBC announced five years ago that they would be handing over Leno’s current spot to Conan O’Brien. Since that announcement NBC has tried to keep Leno on, fearing that he would accept a contract to host another late night show on a competing network.

Leno, who is 58 years old, has had offers from the likes of ABC, Fox, and Sony. However, NBC has finally persuaded him to stay on as part of their prime time lineup. Details about the new show and the deal NBC made to keep Leno on board were not available pending NBC’s official announcement of the show, which will start airing next fall.

The show is expected to be set in Burbank, California, where the “Tonight Show” is taped now, and will include bits from the current show such as “Headlines”, and the ever-popular “Jay Walking.” Staff members said that it would not be a variety show.

This is not the first time that a late night host has been offered a spot on prime time. In 2002 CBS offered David Letterman a spot in their prime time lineup at eight o’clock. The offer came in the wake of Letterman’s indecision to renew his contract with CBS. Letterman later turned down the offer to appear on prime time television after CBS gave in to a salary increase and a lengthy contract agreement.

It is rumored that Leno will command an enormous salary, said to be more than $30 million a year. But that is only a fraction of what networks normally pay for dramas that air at ten p.m. They would spend about $15 million a week for five episodes of a sit-com, for example. Under his new deal, Leno will perform 46 weeks per year. “The Tonight Show” averages 4.8 million viewers.

Neither Mr. Leno nor the executives at NBC had any comment about the new show. They are expected to announce the new deal with Mr. Leno this Tuesday in Los Angeles.


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