Jay Leno may regain 'Tonight Show' perch (Updated)
Could Jay Leno get his old job back?According to sources familiar with the situation, the network is in discussions about putting the comedian back on at his original 11:30 p.m. perch, either as a lead-in to "Tonight Show" host Conan O'Brien or replacing him altogether.
NBC officials declined to comment on that specific scenario, the latest of a flurry of rumors to leak out of the peacock network today.
The television industry website FTVLive kicked off a series of reports today about Leno’s future in a post that said NBC had decided to cancel the show. Such a move would amount to a major retreat by the network, which has insisted that stripping Leno’s comedy show across the week has been a success financially, even if the ratings have been lackluster.
Leno's late-night replacement, Conan O'Brien, has not performed well either, and now apparently the network wants to put Leno back at 11:30 and slide O'Brien to midnight, according to people close to the situation. The news that NBC was considering bumping O'Brien out of his time slot was first reported by TMZ.
[Updated 4:50 p.m.: NBC just released a statement regarding O'Brien's future. "We have the best comedy team in the business. We remain committed to keeping Conan O’Brien on NBC. He is a valued part of our late-night line-up, as he has been for more than 16 years and is one of the most respected entertainers on television."]
NBC has felt tremendous pressure from its affiliates over Leno's performance and have been pushing the network to return to scripted programming. This season NBC has averaged 5.34 million viewers at 10 p.m., a 29% drop from the same period last season.
[Updated at 5:20 p.m.: Leno addressed the rumors head-on during his monologue tonight, joking that NBC stands for "Never Believe Your Contract." Read more details on our Showtracker blog.]
-- Joe Flint and Matea Gold