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Leno returns to late night: NBC

Last Updated: Sunday, January 10, 2010 | 2:44 PM ET

Comedian Jay Leno had only hosted his new show for 17 weeks on NBC. Comedian Jay Leno had only hosted his new show for 17 weeks on NBC. (David Kohl/Associated Press)

NBC confirmed that the Jay Leno prime-time experiment is over, ending days of speculation about what the network planned to do about its late-night lineup.

NBC's top entertainment executive said Sunday that the network decided to move The Jay Leno Show to 11:35 p.m. from 10 p.m. after its affiliates complained about the show's poor lead-in into local news shows.

NBC Universal Television Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gaspin said Sunday that Leno's nightly prime-time show will end with the beginning of the Winter Olympics on Feb. 12.

Gaspin said that despite lower ratings for NBC at 10 p.m. compared to last year, the network was making money from the show. In fact, audience numbers had dropped about 30 per cent in the 17 weeks since Leno's new show. Gaspin did not reveal what the network will place in the 10 p.m. slot.

Some affiliates told NBC in December they would go public soon about their complaints if a change wasn't made, or even take Leno's show off the air.

"The drumbeat started getting louder," Gaspin said.

Gaspin has proposed moving Conan O'Brien's Tonight show to 12:05 a.m., and Jimmy Fallon's show would start an hour later. But the late-night hosts have not publicly agreed to the move.

Gaspin said he expected NBC's late-night situation to be cleared up by the start of the Olympics.

Asked if O'Brien and Fallon expressed anger at his proposal, Gaspin said both men were professional and understanding when they talked.

"As much as I'd like to tell you we have a done deal, the talks are still going on," Gaspin said.

"Beyond that, it was a private conversation."

On Saturday, a New York Times report quoted O'Brien representatives saying the host would not agree to such a change. The 46-year-old performer began his new duties last June after 17 years on Late Night.

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