Leno stays, starts at 10pm starting next year

Looks like late night television will start at 10pm and not 11:35 as the current. Leno will not be ending his late nights after all. That’s if people tune in at 10pm, 1.5 earlier to watch his show. Four years went by too quick, huh?

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – NBC television is expected to announce on Tuesday that comedian Jay Leno will start a prime-time weeknight talk show next year after his planned retirement as star of “The Tonight Show,” The New York Times reported.

Leno’s future has been in question since NBC surprised the TV business four years ago by announcing that he would step down from “Tonight” in 2009 to be replaced by Conan O’Brien, who currently hosts NBC’s “Late Night” show following Leno.

In July, NBC said Leno, 58, who took over from Johnny Carson in 1992, would host his final “Tonight Show” segment on May 29. But executives at the struggling broadcaster said they were still looking for ways to keep him at the network, a unit of General Electric Co-controlled NBC Universal.

Meanwhile, a number of rival networks, including Walt Disney Co’s ABC, were known to have made overtures to the comedian who has long reigned supreme in U.S. television’s late-night ratings wars.

According to the story published on the Times’ online edition, the new Leno show, similar to “Tonight,” would air at 10 p.m. Eastern time and is expected to be set in his longtime studio in Burbank, California. O’Brien, 45, will move “Tonight” into a new studio on the NBC Universal lot in nearby Universal City.

According to the Times, Leno’s new series would be the first in prime time ever offered five nights a week, a programing pattern that is common in daytime television.

NBC officials declined to comment. News of Leno’s deal came on the same day that NBC Universal chief executive Jeff Zucker said the network was looking at “all options” to revamp its broadcast model, including possibly scaling back the number of hours or nights it devotes to prime-time programing.

Moving Leno to 10 p.m. would fulfill the dual goal of keeping the popular star in the NBC fold while greatly reducing its prime-time development and production costs. Giving Leno an hour of air time five nights a week at 10 p.m. would essentially cut back the number of prime-time hours NBC needs to fill from 22 a week to 17.

“The Tonight Show” remains a key asset for NBC, reportedly delivering the bulk of the estimated $300 million of the network’s annual late-night TV revenue.

(Editing by Bill Trott)

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