UPDATE: Now E! online has also independently verified that NBC is planning to move Jay Leno out of the 11:35 p.m. time slot within the next year.
Maybe Jay Leno isn't the Freddy Krueger of late night after all. If The Hollywood Reporter's sources are correct, his reign at 11:35 p.m. may finally be coming to a close... for real this time.
THR is reporting that, according to "two high-level industry sources," NBC will announce in May that Jimmy Fallon is replacing Leno in 2014. While the network still denies the rumor as "categorically untrue" -- the possible change was first reported last December -- the sources explained the rationale is in part the result of stiffer competition for a younger audience.
Sources believe the network will bring in Fallon partly out of concern about the competition on ABC, which moved younger-skewing Jimmy Kimmel to the 11:35 time slot in January.... Leno's 'Tonight' still performs well for NBC, regularly besting his late-night rivals. But Kimmel is competitive in the 18-49 demo.
With NBC falling to an unprecedented fifth place, the network is likely to put all options on the table. Moving Fallon to the coveted spot may allow NBC to fight demographic fire with fire.
Both Fallon and Kimmel have found ways to give their shows life beyond their time slot by creating segments that seem custom-made for Internet sharing. Kimmel's show got a boost from the one-two punch of "F*cking Matt Damon" and "F*cking Ben Affleck," while Fallon has spun viral gold with comedy bits like Neil Young singing "Pants On The Ground" and memorable guest segments such as the recent "Evolution Of Mom Dancing" with Michelle Obama.
Of course, this news raises several questions. First and foremost, "Is this for real?" Second, will Fallon move production to Los Angeles or stay in New York to avoid he and his staff getting Conan'd? Third, and perhaps most importantly, if Fallon goes to "The Tonight Show," who takes over the "Late Night" slot?
If you're betting, we'd say put your money somewhere in Tina Fey's general vicinity. After all, she signed a four-year contract with NBC late last year.
"Late Night With Tina & Amy"? Works for us.
Read the full story on Fallon potentially replacing Leno at The Hollywood Reporter, and let us know what you think of the possible shakeup in the comments.