NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – Jay Leno is staying at NBC with a show at 10 p.m. weeknights.
The network has signed the Tonight Show host to a new agreement that will allow NBC to keep him from going to a rival broadcaster without breaking the network’s agreement with Conan O’Brien to take over Tonight next year. The new deal is expected to be announced at a news conference Tuesday.
NBC notified O’Brien of its plans some time ago, and the Late Night show host got on board.
“It’s great for us,” a source close to O’Brien said. “We’re really excited because the alternative is him leaving angry and going to another network, competing against Conan.”
Keeping both men in place, however, could be a tricky balancing act as the network seeks to hype O’Brien’s ascension without allowing him to be upstaged by Leno’s return — presumably in the fall.
“This is a win-win for everyone,” said Shari Anne Brill, a programing expert and executive with New York-based ad buyer Carat. “Why would you want to lose a talent like Leno to the other guys? Why would you want to give ABC an opportunity like that?”
The move also means NBC would program 17 hours of entertainment programing a week, down from 22.