Everyone thought Leno was leaving NBC in May. Split. Gone. NBC says no, not only is he staying, he’s getting a prime time talkshow slot. No more timeshifting TiVo to see Leno.
The show, to premiere next fall, is expected to be announced today after the network closed a deal with the host late Monday, according to two NBC executives with knowledge of the agreement.
It achieves two objectives: preventing Leno from landing at ABC, Fox or Sony, which were expected to woo the host when his contract expires next year, and patching the network’s woeful prime-time schedule, down 13% this fall to a distant fourth place.
The new show will be similar to the Tonight Show format but with more elaborate sketches and taped segments. And though giving Leno a prime-time slot protects O’Brien from competing directly with him on another network, it risks draining audience and top-notch guest bookings from the future Tonight host.