Jimmy Fallon will succeed Jay Leno as ‘Tonight Show’ host next spring
BY DAVID BAUDER April 4, 2013 12:38AM
FILE - This Jan. 13, 2013 file photo shows Jay Leno, host of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," left, and Jimmy Fallon, host of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" backstage at the 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. As Jay Leno lobs potshots at ratings-challenged NBC in his "Tonight Show" monologues, speculation is swirling the network is taking steps to replace the host with Jimmy Fallon next year and move the show from Burbank to New York. NBC confirmed Wednesday, March 20, it's creating a new studio for Fallon in New York, where he hosts "Late Night." But the network did not comment on a report that the digs at its Rockefeller Plaza headquarters may become home to a transplanted, Fallon-hosted "Tonight Show." (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, file) ORG XMIT: NYET306
Updated: May 5, 2013 3:05PM
NEW YORK — NBC on Wednesday announced its long-rumored switch in late night, replacing Jay Leno at “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon and moving the iconic franchise back to New York.
Fallon will take over in about a year, the switch coinciding with NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage. Veteran “Saturday Night Live” producer Lorne Michaels also will take over as executive producer of “Tonight.”
NBC made no announcement on who would replace Fallon at the 11:35 p.m. “Late Night” slot, although Seth Meyers of “SNL” is considered a strong candidate.
The change at “Tonight,” the longest-running and most popular late-night talk show, had been widely reported but not confirmed by the network until Wednesday. NBC reportedly just wrapped up negotiations with Fallon on a contract extension.
Steve Burke, chief executive officer of NBC Universal, said the network is intentionally making the move when Leno is still at the top of the ratings, just as when Leno replaced Johnny Carson at “Tonight” in 1992.
“Jimmy Fallon is a unique talent, and this is his time,” Burke said.
Leno, in a statement, offered his congratulations to Fallon. “I hope you’re as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you’re the old guy,” he said. “If you need me, I’ll be at the garage.”
NBC has been quietly building a new studio for Fallon at its Rockefeller Center headquarters. “Tonight” began in New York in the 1950s, but Carson moved it to California in 1972. Starting next year, Fallon, Letterman, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will tape late-night shows in New York. ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel and TBS’ Conan O’Brien will be the top California-based shows.
New York state recently added a tax credit in its budget that seemed designed specifically to benefit NBC’s move East with “Tonight.”
While a storied part of television tradition, the network late-night shows find themselves with much more competition now with cable programs like “Adult Swim,” smaller talk shows hosted by the Comedy Central duo of Stewart and Colbert, Chelsea Handler and a device — a large number of people take that time to watch programs they had taped earlier on their DVRs.
NBC is worried that ABC’s Kimmel will establish himself as a go-to late night performer for a younger generation if the network doesn’t move swiftly to install Fallon. ABC moved Kimmel’s time slot to directly compete with Leno earlier this year.
But the move also has the potential to backfire with Leno’s fans, who did not embrace O’Brien when Leno moved to prime time — temporarily, it turned out — a few years ago.
“I think it’s a good move for them long-term,” said Gary Carr, senior vice president and executive director of national broadcast for the ad buying firm TargetCast. “But it may have short-term ramifications.”
NBC’s reputation for smooth transitions took a hit with the short-lived and ill-fated move of O’Brien to “Tonight” and Leno to prime-time a few years ago. In morning television, the “Today” show has taken a ratings nose dive in large measure because of anger at how Ann Curry was treated when she was ousted last year as Matt Lauer’s co-host.
The first public effort toward smoothing the next transition came Monday night, when Leno and Fallon appeared in a comic video making fun of the late-night rumors. It aired in between each man’s show.