Jimmy Fallon to Replace Jay Leno on ‘Tonight Show’

NBC execs are to announce this season as the last one for Leno, sources reveal.

Jay Leno is reported to finally hand the reins of The Tonight Show off to a new host, but not by choice. Photo: Mystic Lake Casino/Flickr

If the recent rumors are true to live, the upcoming 2013-2014 season will become the last one for Leno before he’s replaced by Jimmy Fallon.

Fallon, who now hosts NBC’s Late Show, is reported to be officially announced as the new host sometime in the summer of next year.

The Hollywood Reporter cited two anonymous ‘high-level industry sources’ claiming that the network intends to bring in Fallon in response to Jimmy Kimmel’s show moving to the 11:35 time slot in January.

“The more time Jimmy Kimmel is in that slot, the more the young audience goes that way, the harder it is for [Fallon] to keep that audience,” one source said. 

According to The Daily Mail, Leno has kept his spot on top of the late-night ratings, but Kimmel is competitive in the coveted 18-49 demographic.

“Kimmel has done extremely well,” said one network veteran who wished to remain anonymous.

“Jay wins overall, but on any given night, it’s neck-and-neck in 18-49. I understand where they might have fear and also feel that they own the solution [in Fallon.]”

NBC network denied the rumors, while Jay Leno’s reps said ‘we do not speculate on rumor.’

As The Hollywood Reporter predicts, Leno is more likely to leave, especially in case he were forced to retire while longtime rival David Letterman is still in prime time.

The two have long story of battling to follow Johnny Carson’s legendary tenure as host of the Tonight Show, with Leno winning the spot while Letterman left NBC for CBS to host his own show.

Their fight over the show has even become the basis for the non-fiction book, The Late Shift, which was adapted into a film of the same name by HBO in 1996.

However, there’s one more scenario of future. NBC is worried that if Letterman does leave, CBS network would be looking for a new host, potentially leading to a battle over Jimmy Fallon.

“Late night comedy brawled over talent in 2010 when Jay Leno left the Tonight Show to host another show at 10,” The Daily Mail informs.

“Six years prior, then NBC-head Jeff Zucker had promised then-Late Night host Conan O’Brien that he would get the Tonight Show as part of a deal to re-sign with the network.”

However, the strategy turned out to be a real failure. Jay Leno’s 10 p.m. show tanked in the ratings and O’Brien’s Tonight Show struggled out of the gate against Letterman.

Moreover, a year later Leno was back again, and NBC had gone through a costly and embarrassing debacle.

O’Brien left the network and now works for TBS.

The network could also save money paying a much lower salary to Jimmy Fallon compared to the roughly $20 million per year Leno earns.

If NBC does go through with ousting Leno, one observer notes they’ll ‘get the benefit of selling Jay’s last year – again.’

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