AT A GLANCE
• A plan is in the works to bring NBC’s Tonight show back to New York
• The network has made a commitment to Jimmy Fallon, the current host of its Late Night program, to have him succeed Jay Leno as the next host of Tonight
A plan is in the works to bring NBC’s “Tonight” show back to New York.
While the network has yet to complete a deal, it has made a commitment to Jimmy Fallon, the current host of its “Late Night” program, to have him succeed Jay Leno as the next host of “Tonight,'’ according to several senior television executives involved in the decision. The show would move from Burbank, Calif., back to New York, where it first started in 1954 with Steve Allen as host.
Some details remain to be worked out, including an exact timetable for the switch, though it is expected to take place by the fall of 2014 at the latest, the executives said in interviews this week.
NBC has quietly begun work on a new studio in its headquarters building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza as the home for the new “Tonight” show. The studio is part of a general reconstruction of the building being undertaken by Comcast, which this week completed a full takeover of NBC Universal.
An NBC spokeswoman declined to comment on the move, other than to say the network was building a new state-of-the-art studio for Mr. Fallon.
A move to New York would return “Tonight” to its roots, after an absence of more than four decades. Beginning in in 1954 the show was taped every evening at 30 Rock, first with Mr. Allen as host, followed by Jack Paar and Johnny Carson. But Mr. Carson, looking for easier access to Hollywood guests, as well as a different lifestyle, moved the show permanently to Burbank in 1972.
Mr. Fallon, who made his reputation at 30 Rock as a star on “Saturday Night Live,'’ now occupies the studio where Mr. Carson was working in the 1960s and early ‘70s. His “Late Night'’ show is broadcast at 12:35 a.m. Eastern time, following Mr. Leno on “Tonight.'’
The changing of the guard on “Tonight” is one of the biggest personnel decisions in television, and has always been fraught with intrigue and backroom maneuvering. Three years ago, an effort to replace Mr. Leno with Conan O’Brien ended in recriminations and an ultimate reversal; Mr. Leno was reinstated as host after only seven months. NBC endured weeks of negative press coverage. In the early 1990s, Mr. Leno and David Lettermen engaged in a heated and often acrimonious competition to replace Mr. Carson.
The potential timetable for the change — sometime within the next 18 months — has been tied to Mr. Leno’s current contract, which ends in the fall of 2014, as well as the need to sign Mr. Fallon to a new deal.
But one executive said NBC did not want Mr. Fallon to appear on the open market, where another network could try to woo him away — perhaps CBS, as a replacement for Mr. Letterman when he retired.
On Wednesday NBC said the conflict with Mr. Leno was being smoothed over.