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Plug pulled on Leno prime time slot

Broadcaster NBC has pulled the plug on comedian Jay Leno's struggling prime time TV show.

The much-rumoured move came after some affiliate stations considered dropping the nightly show.

The network is waiting to hear if Leno and Tonight host Conan O'Brien accept its new late-night TV plans.

The Jay Leno Show, which is shown at 10pm US time, will end with the February 12 start of the Winter Olympics, said NBC Universal Television's entertainment chairman, Jeff Gaspin.

Leno would return to his former 11.35pm slot after the Olympics ended under the network's new plan, which also calls for O'Brien to retain his job with Tonight, but at the later hour of 12.05am.

Jimmy Fallon and his Late Night would be pushed a half-hour later as well, to 1.05am.

"My goal is to keep Jay, Conan and Jimmy as our late-night line-up," Mr Gaspin said, adding that they "have the weekend to think about it" and discussions with them would resume today.

NBC had moved Leno to prime time last year in order to keep him from leaving the company and keep a promise it had made to give O'Brien the Tonight show. The change was one of the most dramatic in prime time television in a generation, but also a big gamble at a time NBC was suffering in prime time. It did not last six months.


Mr Gaspin said the new pro-posal gave Leno what was important to him -- telling jokes at a later hour -- and O'Brien his top priority, retaining Tonight.

He said that despite lower ratings for NBC at 10pm compared with the previous year, the network was making money from the show. But affiliates were upset that it was leading fewer viewers into their late news programmes, costing them advertising revenue.

Some affiliates told NBC in December they would go public about their complaints unless a change was made, or Leno's show was taken off the air.

O'Brien reportedly has a contract that guarantees him a multimillion-dollar payment if Tonight is moved later than 12.05am. But Mr Gaspin denied that had influenced his decision to move O'Brien's show by just half an hour rather than an hour.