NBC Said to Be Preparing for Fallon as Possible 'Tonight Show' Host

Change May Have Been Accelerated by Kimmel Move on ABC

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NBC is upgrading late-show host Jimmy Fallon's studio in New York, a potential new home for "The Tonight Show" when Mr. Fallon takes over from Jay Leno, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Youth appeal: Jimmy Fallon and Selena Gomez perform 'Mario Kart Love Song'
Youth appeal: Jimmy Fallon and Selena Gomez perform 'Mario Kart Love Song' Credit: NBC

A decision about when that happens hasn't been made, the person said, but signs suggest it will be sooner than executives planned before ABC moved "Jimmy Kimmel Live" to 11:35 p.m. from after midnight, putting him in position to start winning younger views who now watch the older Mr. Leno and CBS's David Letterman.

Mr. Leno, 62, is under contract until September 2014, and Mr. Fallon, 38, is the frontrunner to succeed to him, said the person. The New York Times reported Wednesday that the network had made a commitment to Mr. Fallon to take over by late 2014.

With 18 months left on Mr. Leno's contract, Comcast Corp.'s NBC Universal hasn't begun new talks with "The Tonight Show" host.

But "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" remains late-night's ratings leader, making a change risky for NBC, which has suffered audience losses in prime time and mornings. The network also saw steep viewer losses in 2009 when it moved Mr. Leno to prime-time and handed his show to Conan O'Brien, a debacle that ultimately saw Mr. Leno retake "Tonight" and Mr. O'Brien depart for TBS.

Rebecca Marks, an NBC spokeswoman, confirmed the studio renovation in New York but declined to comment further.

~ Bloomberg News with Ad Age staff ~

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