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NBC’s struggles don’t end with prime time. From Today to the Tonight Show, the network is hurting, so it comes as no surprise that there is another rumor that Jay Leno is on his way out.
Two industry sources told The Hollywood Reporter late Friday that the network plans on announcing in May that Jimmy Fallon will take over the Tonight Show staring in the 2013-14 TV season. The plan is to give him a soft launch at 11:35 during the summer with a full promotion in the fall.
THR claims that the network is nervous about the success of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!. While Leno does draw bigger audiences than CBS’ The Late Show With David Letterman and Kimmel, NBC believes that the younger Fallon would be better competition for Kimmel at 11:35. There’s also the issue of Letterman possibly retiring in 2014 and CBS getting another, younger comic to host The Late Show.
“Kimmel has done extremely well,” another executive, who says he wasn’t aware of a Leno move, told THR. “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.]”
This isn’t the first time there have been rumors that Leno is on his way out. After he took a 50 percent pay cut, there were rumors in December started by the New York Daily News. That publication cited similar concerns with Kimmel.
Fallon currently hosts Late Night at 12:35.
NBC denied the report when asked for a comment by THR. Leno’s rep told the site, “We do not speculate on rumor.”