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Jay Leno gets a new NBC deal

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Today NBC revealed some details of that new primetime gig for “The Tonight Show” host Jay Leno. Hollywood and the media have been buzzing about the new Leno show since yesterday. NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios co-heads, Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff, joined Leno to make the official announcement at a news conference in Universal City.

Leno will vacate “The Tonight Show” desk on Friday, May 29, 2009. NBC decided to boot Leno out of the chair so that late night talker Conan O’Brien could take over. Interestingly, Leno said he will be taking many of the popular elements of “The Tonight Show” with him to his new 10.p.m show.

Leno could draw an even bigger audience for his new primetime show than “The Tonight Show,” which airs at 11:30 p.m. NBC is getting some good press for the deal. It accomplishes two things: it keeps Leno from jumping to another network and the new one-hour talk show will be cheaper to produce at 10 p.m. than dramas or other types of programming.

Still, I can’t help wondering why the NBC bigwigs didn’t just move “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno to 10.p.m. and create a new show for Conan O’Brien at 11:30p.m. O’Brien will be handing over his 12:30 a.m. show hosting duties to Jimmy Fallon. 

Meanwhile, Leno has a very loyal audience. During the Writers Guild strike last winter, Leno fans kept watching “The Tonight Show” even though it lacked writers and high-profile guests. More than likely, that same audience will gladly tune in an hour and a half earlier to catch Leno’s monologue and other familiar bits from “The Tonight Show.” First, it looked like NBC was treating Leno pretty shabby by throwing him over for O’Brien. Now it appears Leno may have come out of all of this with the best deal.

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