The Tonight Show is heading back to New York, with Jimmy Fallon expected to take over for longtime host Jay Leno by the fall of 2014 at the latest, The New York Times reports. The changeover would bring the late-night TV staple back to the East coast for the first time since 1972, when Johnny Carson moved it to Burbank, California.
While NBC has yet to complete the deal and an exact timetable hasn't been finalized, several network executives told the Times that a commitment has been made to Fallon, the current host of Late Night after The Tonight Show. The decision to promote Fallon reportedly came after the network grew concerned they might lose their chance to secure a younger demographic in the long-term; ABC recently moved its late-night star, Jimmy Kimmel, to the 11:30 p.m. timeslot, where he now goes head-to-head with Leno and The Late Show with David Letterman.
An NBC spokeswoman declined to comment on the move but confirmed that the network is building a new "state-of-the-art studio for Mr. Fallon" in its headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. That construction is part of general renovations being undertaken by Comcast, which completed its takeover of NBC this week.
Though the change would prevent NBC from losing Fallon to a competing network, it is not without risk. Leno continues to dominate the late-night ratings race even with Kimmel as his direct competition, and he typically draws the most viewers in the 18-to-49 demographic coveted most by advertisers. "Jay manages to stay ahead of Kimmel," said one executive involved in the switch. "How often has that guy been underestimated?"