We may now know what’s fueling Jay Leno’s bitter, public war with NBC.
The network confirmed to me today that it is constructing a new, state-of-the-art production studio at 30 Rock to be used by Jimmy Fallon — furthering speculation that he will take over THE TONIGHT SHOW and move it back to New York.
The job all but belongs to Fallon, his LATE NIGHT producer Lorne Michaels revealed in an interview released yesterday.
“I’m not allowed to say it—yet. But I think there’s an inevitability to it,” he told GQ. “He’s the closest to Carson that I’ve seen of this generation.”
It appears NBC is trying to get Leno to bow out gracefully so it can present a succession plan to advertisers at its annual Upfront presentation in May.
But the chinny comic isn’t going down quietly.
“Jay has fought for this show from the moment he got into show business,” entertainment manager Howard Lepides told me for a story in Thursday’s New York Post.
If he is forced out — again — Leno “could take a sizable crowd with him,” Lepides says. “Fallon will eventually develop his own audience, but it could take years.”
An angry Leno has been taking aim at the network for week, calling his bosses “snakes” and mocking the network’s programming failures.
On Tuesday, he joked about a woman from Serbia who had a rare brain condition and saw everything upside down.
“It’s unbelievable,” he quipped. “She thinks NBC is at the top of the ratings!”
THE TONIGHT SHOW, for now, is one of the network’s only ratings winners, routinely topping rivals David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel at 11:35 PM.
“Leno’s audience is mainstream,” says Brad Adgate, VP of Research at Horizon Media, “Marketers love him. But his audience is old.”
“The median age for THE TONIGHT SHOW is about 58. Fallon’s is in the early 50’s.”
If NBC does not replace its 62 year-old star when his contract expires in May 2014, it may have to wait several more years for another opportunity — and risk losing its coveted younger viewers to ABC’s Kimmel.
It is possible Leno could explore moving to Fox, which has long wanted to develop a late night show and was in talks with Conan O’Brien in 2010.
“But I think the (Fox affiliates) are very happy putting off net comedies like Seinfeld on after the news,” Adgate says.
“I don’t think he has as much wiggle room, but there is still some more opportunities.”
“Jay could always do Atlantic City or Vegas. He could be the new Wayne Newton.”
Do you think Jimmy Fallon should take over in 2014? Let us know in the comments below.
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