Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Jay Leno is moving to prime time.

NBC-TV announced on its “Today” show Tuesday that the late night comedian will shift in the fall from “The Tonight Show” to a 10 p.m. EST slot that will carry a similar format.

The move by Mr. Leno, 58, who has hosted “The Tonight Show” since 1993, will mean that Conan OBrien will take over Mr. Leno’s time slot from his current show, “Late Night.” NBC announced five years ago that Mr. O’Brien would succeed Mr. Leno as host of “The Tonight Show” in May 2009.

The NBC announcement followed a story in Tuesday’s New York Times saying that Mr. Leno was offered the prime time spot in order to keep him from taking his late-night show to another network. That show starts at 11:35 p.m. EST.

Mr. Leno currently leads in the late night ratings, beating CBS-TV’s David Letterman.

The Times said ABC-TV, the Fox network and the Sony television studio were known to have been wooing Mr. Leno, whose NBC contract is worth $30 million a year. It said Jeff Zucker, the chief executive of NBC Universal, persuaded Mr. Leno to stay on. NBC Universal is a unit of General Electric.

Mr. Leno is expected to broadcast his new show from his studio in Burbank, Calif., and to retain many elements of his current program. Mr. O’Brien is expected to move to a new studio on the NBC Universal lot in Universal City, Calif., in May, the Times said.

Mr. Leno, who succeeded Johnny Carson as “Tonight Show” host, is expected to receive more money. But the Times said the cost of his show is a fraction of the $15 million a week it costs NBC to air dramas five nights a week at $3 million an episode.

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