Jay Leno's job appears safe -- for now

Comcast's NBC categorically denies a report that the talk-show host is on the way out.

By Jonathan Berr Mar 4, 2013 4:13PM
File photo of Jay Leno in July 2011 ( Matt Sayles/AP Photo)Comcast's (CMCSA) NBC has denied a report in The Hollywood Reporter that next season could be Jay Leno's last as host of "The Tonight Show" and that he would probably be replaced by comedian Jimmy Fallon.

"We are categorically denying the the reports on a plan for a late-night transition," writes Rebecca Marks, NBC's executive vice president for entertainment publicity, in an email to MSN Money.

Leno, who first took over "The Tonight Show" after Johnny Carson's retirement in 1992, and everyone else at NBC has good reason to be nervous. As my colleague Aimee Picchi recently noted, the network came in fifth in the recent sweeps period, when broadcasters showcase their best programs in the hopes of attracting the biggest audience. Even Spanish-language network Univision did better.

"NBC has certainly had happier times," said Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse University's Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture, in an interview.

Leno continues to hold his own in the ratings. During the week of Feb. 18-22, "The Tonight Show" was No. 1 with viewers, including those in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic that advertisers love, according to NBC. Leno has delivered bigger 18-to-49 and total audiences than CBS' (CBS) "The Late Show With David Letterman" for 14 straight weeks. He has bested ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" for six out of seven weeks in the target demo and for seven straight weeks in total viewers.

The problem that NBC has is over the long term. The average viewer of late-night shows on the broadcast networks is his or her 50s and is getting older. Compared with cable shows hosted by Conan O'Brien, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, whose audiences are in their 30s and 40s, these viewers are ancient.

For advertisers, younger audiences aren't everything, but they are pretty close. That's where Kimmel, 45, is seen having an edge over more experienced rivals such as 65-year-old Letterman and 62-year-old Leno, which probably worries NBC and gives ABC parent Walt Disney (DIS) cause for optimism.
The NBC late night comedy lineup has had its fair share of drama in recent years. NBC announced in 2004 that Conan O'Brien would succeed Jay Leno as the host of "The Tonight Show" in 2009 only to reverse course the next year and gave the square-jawed comedian his old job back. O'Brien left the network and now hosts a show on TBS.

--Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed shares. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.


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Mar 4, 2013 5:45PM

Leno is the only decent talk show host at 10:30 p.m. (Central).  I enjoy his monologue, skits and interviewing skills.


Letterman is an aging cl**** with pathetic attempts at humor.  I will never ever watch him, doesn't matter who he has for a guest.  Kimmel tries but really lacks anything solid.


Really sad that Johnny Carson couldn't live forever.  He was the (and still is) the BEST!

Mar 4, 2013 6:12PM
In my opinion, Jay Leno is the funniest and best talk show host on late night TV.  I'm glad he's going to continue on for some time to come.

I have no respect for Letterman since he has been so critical of Leno over the years and Kimmel has made some negative comments about Leno lately.  If these guys were as good at their job as Leno, they wouldn't need to be critical of him.

Mar 4, 2013 6:36PM
The proof is in the numbers...if you watch all four shows you can plainly see that Letterman seems to be a little addled, Kimmel is just plain mean about Leno and I wouldn't be surprised if he went the way of Conan.  Jimmy Fallon is clearly the most talented and original of all and I'd be happy to see him move in if Leno leaves, but NBC can't afford another mistake and they need to keep Jay if he's pulling in the ratings.  By the way, did anybody notice that when everybody was dumping on Leno, he never said a negative thing about any of them?  I happen to love his 'Jay Walk' segments and the fact that people are stupid and ignorant is not his fault...but he's certainly not mean and they seem to laugh at themselves.  When everybody says '...what he did to Conan' I wonder what that means.  His contract with NBC is pretty much a handshake, he kept going for 5 years until Conan took over, with no animosity and when the network let Conan go because he couldn't pull in the audience, they asked him to come back.  Conan would have been gone no matter what.  Again, it's just TV folks!  So get over it and just watch what you like.  Leno gave up a chunk of his salary to keep his staff, he and his wife do a lot of charity work and always have and, if you didn't know, he still goes out and does stand-up on a regular basis to help hone his act, so maybe that has something to do with his longevity.  I suspect he may be looking forward to retiring.
Mar 4, 2013 4:50PM
Thank goodness Jay's job is safe. There is not a lot of demand due to the economy for talkshow hosts. At least he can have a sigh of relief knowing he can pay his mortgage and feed his family.
Mar 4, 2013 8:04PM
leno is the best choice on late night, period
Mar 4, 2013 8:34PM
Mar 5, 2013 12:25AM
Why are the brain surgeons of the world messing with Leno again?  That Conan thing was the dumbest move ever and anyone could have seen that a thousand miles away.  And now this baloney?  What gives with the idiots at the networks?  
Mar 4, 2013 10:29PM
When Leno is done so am I, Jimmy and Conan just don't have it!
Mar 4, 2013 8:34PM

I quit watching them along time ago. They have gotten politically biased and, I guess to keep the younger people watching, somewhat nasty...especially Letterman.


I really shouldn't say now though because I really haven't watched any of them enought to know what they are up to at the present time but, it seems everything in t.v. has gotten so much worse, so I just assume the late shows have gone along with the flow. Gotta do something to keep up ratings,

Mar 5, 2013 1:53AM
Since when did being over 50 become 'ancient?'

MSN, can you @ least hire bloggers who don't still
wet their panties?
Mar 5, 2013 2:12AM

They are all Obama lovers and bias as hell but at least Jay gives everyone a fair chance and invites all sides for us to see and hear what they have to say. I will stay with Jay. I do not like Kimmel or Conan. Like Jimmy but he needs to stay where he is right now.

Mar 5, 2013 9:45AM
Getting rid of Leno would be the dumbest thing NBC could possible do. Haven't they tried that before?
Mar 4, 2013 9:27PM
it is what it is . for better are worse jay leno is the best late night host on T.V. hands down.i don't dislike fallon but he has got to be the very worst monologue host that ever lived.  and his band the roots don't hold a candle to leno's are lettermans bands. they would have to be some serious changes made for fallon to stay on top in that time slot. no monologue ,no roots, and a demographic change in the shows format that  appeals to more than just young folks.
Mar 5, 2013 11:36AM

See-I always knew Jay WAS bigger/better than all the others at 11:30 pm.  Conan was a complete flop-only from HIS own doing. NBC was losing millions every week on him--so why pay him $34,000,000 to say 'good riddance'??? Wouldn't $10,000,000 have done it?? LOL  I like Jay's show better than Letterman's (who sometimes seems to have a problem getting the words out of his mouth!!). I will stick with Jay for as long as he has his show.

Mar 4, 2013 6:48PM
with all the denieing going on that means jay will be gone before the end of summer
Mar 4, 2013 7:19PM
Oh, forgot, I like to click over for Fallon.  Its a fun updated show although lately it is also becoming pretty routine and formatted, but I think he is built for his time slot.  Don't think the after news crowd would fall for Fallon unless he toned it down and got as boring as Leno.  Thats what happened to Letterman long ago... remember? 
Mar 4, 2013 11:26PM

I watch all of them from time to time. But I don't go out of my way to watch any of them.

They all get paid too much, IMHO. none of them are really worth the $$$$$,

think about....why, they are all  "ok"...all of them just copied Johnny's stuff..

Mar 5, 2013 10:11AM
Fallon is by far the most unfunny "comedian" working right now. Putting him on the Tonight Show would be it's death. At least tap someone like Carson Daly. While he's not that funny either, at least he is interesting to watch.
Mar 5, 2013 12:01PM

Leno should tell them too take a hike, he don't need their money or their crap, they have made him out too be  the fall guy , I do not mean seasons............. sandy


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