NBC is set to announce on Tuesday that the The Tonight Show host Jay Leno will take over the 10 p.m. weeknight slot starting next fall.
According to Variety, the decision to strip Leno at 10 p.m. solves one of the most pressing issues facing NBC in the coming year: How to keep ratings leader Leno at the network, and away from the competition.
The move also saves The Tonight Show successor Conan O'Brien from having to compete against his predecessor - who was expected to land in the 11:35 slot at another network, most likely ABC. (Fox and Sony, among others, had expressed interest too.) But by keeping Leno on at 10 p.m., O'Brien may also very well wind up being overshadowed by his predecessor - particularly since Leno will air in primetime, when TV viewing is higher.
Enter Jay Leno. Moving Leno to 10 p.m. had long been discussed in industry circles as perhaps NBC's best option to keep the host in the network fold.
The pitch was simple: Keep doing what you're doing, but at 10 p.m. That means Leno still won't own the new show - NBC Universal will, much like it does the "Tonight Show."
As part of his new deal, insiders have suggested that Leno could make between $40 million to $50 million a year with a 10 p.m. slot.
Most importantly for Leno, he stays at the same home where he's spent the last 17 years as host of late night TV's biggest franchise.
The idea of stripping a series at 10 p.m. is nothing new: NBC toyed with the idea in 1992 as a way to keep David Letterman at the network; its believed the network also considered stripping "Dateline NBC" on the network back during a period of earlier ratings woes.
The impact of moving Leno to 10 p.m. will likely be a hot topic for weeks.
"What does this mean to my show?" asked one NBC exec producer almost immediately after word of the Leno move leaked. Indeed, some shows may wind up with shorter orders than the traditional 22 episode season, as Peacock's needs may be less.