NBC Confirms Plans for Jay Leno in Primetime

10 p.m. Show to Debut Fall 2009.
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VIDEO: B&C Editor & Chief Ben Grossman Talks Leno On CNBC

NBC confirmed on Tuesday that Jay Leno will host a new comedy/talk show on NBC five nights a week in primetime, as reported by B&C Monday. The show will debut beginning in the fall of 2009.

“We are just thrilled to keep Jay Leno in the family,” said Marc Graboff, co-chairman of NBC Universal and Universal Media Studios, at a press conference on Tuesday.

“The planets aligned. This is the right person, at the right time. We would not have done this with anyone else.”

The new Leno show will originate from Burbank, Calif., and air Monday through Friday, 10-11 p.m./9-10 p.m. CT.

NBC says the show, part of a multiyear deal, will be the first entertainment program to be stripped across primetime on broadcast network television.

It will also save NBC Universal about $13 million a week in programming costs, enabling the network to abandon scripted programming at 10 p.m., an hour where viewership has been steadily dropping.

“Part of what is great about this is it allows us to concentrate all of our development (in the 8 and 9 p.m. hours),” said Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBCU and UMS. “We’re really excited about being able to concentrate that firepower.”

Leno will sign off as host of The Tonight Show on May 29, 2009, as previously planned. His new show, kicking off a few months later, will showcase many of the features from his late night show, including his opening monologue and comedy segments "Headlines," "Jaywalking" and "Battle of the Jaywalking All-Stars," according to NBC’s announcement.

Leno said that he was flattered by the reported wooing by ABC, Fox and other suitors. “There were reports that I was going to go to ABC,” said Leno at Tuesday’s press conference. “But that was started by a disgruntled employee – me! It’s nice to be wanted, when you’re my age and people want you…”

But in the end, Jeff Zucker, NBCU chief, won the wooing contest.

“Jeff Zucker was the whole deal,” said Leno. “He’s been great throughout it. People like to attack Jeff, but he’s been great since the beginning.”

As previously announced, Conan O'Brien will take over The Tonight Show hosting duties on June 1, 2009, broadcasting from the West Coast studio currently under construction on the Universal lot. Jimmy Fallon will assume the role of host of Late Night on March 2, 2009.

Leno shot down reports of tension between himself and Zucker and O'Brien, saying “Look this is a business and you have to run it like a business. And I’m an adult and I understand how these things work.”

Zucker foreshadowed the move at a UBS media conference Monday, saying that NBC has to look at options including programming less primetime hours.

Keeping Leno at NBC like this is a much-needed victory for struggling NBC in the wake of a massive round of layoffs and a re-organization of the entire way the network and studio are structured as the network continues to languish in fourth place.

The show will be produced by Big Dog Productions in association with Universal Media Studios. Debbie Vickers will serve as executive producer. Leno was represented by his long-time attorney, Ken Ziffren.

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