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Leno to leave NBC’s ‘Tonight Show’ next spring

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TV Tonight Show Leno Fallon

This Nov. 5, 2012 photo released by NBC shows Jay Leno, host of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," on the set in Burbank, Calif. NBC announced Wednesday, April 3, 2013 that Jimmy Fallon is replacing Jay Leno as the host of "The Tonight Show" in spring 2014. (AP Photo/NBC, Paul Drinkwater)

NEW YORK (AP) — NBC on Wednesday announced its long-rumored switch in late night, replacing incumbent Jay Leno at “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon and moving the iconic franchise back to New York.

“Saturday Night Live” producer Lorne Michaels will take over as producer of the new “Tonight Show.” Fallon’s replacement at 12:35 a.m. was not named, although Seth Meyers of “SNL” is considered a strong candidate.

The move had been widely reported but not confirmed by the network until Wednesday. NBC reportedly just wrapped up negotiations with Fallon on a contract extension.

Steve Burke, chief executive officer of NBC Universal, said the network is purposefully making the move when Leno is still at the top of the ratings, just as when Leno replaced Johnny Carson at “The Tonight Show.”

“Jimmy Fallon is a unique talent and this is his time,” Burke said.

This Feb. 18, 2013 photo released by NBC shows Jimmy Fallon, host of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," on the set in New York. NBC announced Wednesday, April 3, 2013 that Jimmy Fallon is replacing Jay Leno as the host of "The Tonight Show" in spring 2014.  (AP Photo/NBC, Lloyd Bishop)
This Feb. 18, 2013 photo released by NBC shows Jimmy Fallon, host of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” on the set in New York. NBC announced Wednesday, April 3, 2013 that Jimmy Fallon is replacing Jay Leno as the host of “The Tonight Show” in spring 2014. (AP Photo/NBC, Lloyd Bishop)

Fallon will take over in conjunction with NBC’s coverage of next year’s Winter Olympic games. NBC hopes for a big audience — much larger than what it gets in prime time now — to promote the switchover.

NBC is worried that ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel will establish himself as a go-to late night performer for a younger generation if the network didn’t move swiftly to install Fallon. But the move also has the potential to backfire with Leno’s fans, who did not embrace Conan O’Brien when Leno was temporarily moved to prime time a few years ago.

The first effort toward making that transition smooth came on Monday night, when Leno and Fallon appeared in a comic video making fun of all the late-night rumors. It aired in between each man’s show.

Leno, in a statement, offered his congratulations to Fallon.

“I hope you’re as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you’re the old guy,” he said. “If you need me, I’ll be at the garage.”

Fallon said, “I’m really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow.”

RYOT NOTE: Congrats to Jimmy Fallon! It looks like Jay Leno’s tumultuous reign at NBC will finally come to an end once and for all. Hopefully he continues his amazing charity work. Leno has supported a number of causes, but St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is one of our favorites. They provide free care and great support to kids who are really, really sick. We cannot understate the importance of their mission. Please check them out, consider donating and share this story!

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Comedy jay leno jimmy fallon television the tonight show tv
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Leno to leave NBC’s ‘Tonight Show’ next spring

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