ABC's 'Nightline' Faces Uncertain Future as Leno Switch Looms

It's still nearly a year away but the television industry is buzzing about what will happen when "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno is forced out of his position at the end of May next year. More than likely, as the New York Post's Adam Buckman points out, Leno will jump ship to ABC which will force some schedule changes at that network:

With Leno, ABC has a once-in-a- blue- moon opportu nity to suddenly seize the lead in late- night after decades of play ing also-ran to NBC and CBS.

But what of "Nightline" and Jimmy Kimmel, you ask? They will have to get out of the way.

And it won't matter to the higher-ups at Disney if the news-di vision suits get their noses out of joint over losing their half- hour in late-night after 29 years.

Nothing against "Nightline" - it's a fine show, better and livelier these days than it was in the last years of the Ted Koppel era.

But Leno's "Tonight Show" made hundreds of millions of dollars for NBC and stands to do the same for ABC. Moreover, Leno, 58 and still good to go for years to come, is the top-rated personality in late-night TV. If he was available, along with all that money, wouldn't you move "Nightline" out of the way?

As for Kimmel, hopefully he understands what a Leno lead-in will mean for him - higher ratings (and more money) certainly, plus the opportunity to play in the same league as NBC and CBS, which have long had a one-two punch in late-night, while Kimmel, 40, has been out there on his own at the oddball time of 12:05 a.m. following "Nightline," a show which is not compatible.

For Leno, moving to ABC carries almost no risk. He famously claims to not care about the money, but it's easy to guess that ABC will pay him in the neighborhood of $30 million a year to come over and do what he's always done. (It is estimated in most published reports that NBC pays him around $27 million.)

The only firm thing at this point, however is that Leno will be out at NBC, replaced by his current understudy Conan O'Brien. O'Brien's current show will be replaced by former "Saturday Night Live" actor Jimmy Fallon.


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