Could Jay Leno head to Fox if he is replaced by Jimmy Fallon as the "Tonight Show" host next year?
The New York Post reports that Fox affiliates are strongly in favor of giving Leno an 11 p.m. talk show if and when he exits NBC. Steve Pruett, the chairman of Fox's affiliate board, told the Post that Leno's ratings success on NBC would make him a natural choice to headline late night programming on Fox stations across the country.
However, convincing the Fox network to sign Leno may be a tougher sell than convincing the affiliates. While nothing is confirmed yet, NBC's reported plan to move Leno aside in favor of Fallon is based on the projected value of Fallon's ability to attract a younger audience for years to come. Similarly, Fox attracts a younger viewership, and signing the 62-year-old Leno could be risky, despite his history of strong ratings ("The Jay Leno Show" notwithstanding).
In 2010, Fox parent company News Corp was intent on signing Conan O'Brien when he became a free agent after departing "The Tonight Show." But after weeks of negotiations, which included an option to launch O'Brien on cable channel FX and then moving his show to Fox, affiliates determined that syndicated reruns of sitcoms would attract higher ratings than an O'Brien talk show.
Of the Leno chatter, a Fox spokesperson told the Post that the network "has no plans for a late-night show — at this time." Complicating measures is the fact that Leno's contract ends in 2014, and likely has a non-compete clause for several months after he leaves the network.
If Leno wishes to remain a network TV presence after exiting "The Tonight Show," Fox may be his only hope. In 2010, ABC was a potential option, but now that "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" moved to 11:35 with the full support of the network, Leno is left with only Fox.
To read more, click over to the New York Post.