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...and now Leno is facing the chop

American broadcaster NBC is considering a shake-up that would put comedian Jay Leno back on late-night TV and end the prime-time experiment with the talk show host.

One insider said the network was considering a scenario that would include a half-air Leno show at 11.35pm, pushing The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien to 12.05am and Jimmy Fallon's Late Night to 1.05am.

Leno's nightly 10pm talk and comedy show has drawn lacklustre ratings and complaints from NBC affiliated stations that the show has been a weak lead-in for local late newscasts and hurt their viewership.

The proposed new line-up could go into effect at the end of February.


In a statement yesterday, NBC said: "Jay Leno is one of the most compelling entertainers in the world today. As we have said all along, Jay's show has performed exactly as we anticipated on the network. It has, however, presented some issues for our affiliates.

"Both Jay and the show are committed to working closely with them to find ways to improve the performance."

Website reports had suggested The Jay Leno Show would be dropped, but NBC executives later denied it had been cancelled.

During his monologue yesterday, Leno milked some laughs from the "rumour floating around that we were cancelled. I heard it coming in this morning on the radio. So far, no one has said anything to me".

But if it was true, he joked, "it will give us time to do some travelling. I understand that (the) Fox (network) is beautiful this time of year".


"I don't think there is any truth to the rumours," he went on, referring to his front-runner status in the ratings when NBC took him off The Tonight Show.

"See, it's always been my experience that NBC only cancels you when you're in first place," he cracked. "So we are fine. We are okay."