BEVERLY HILLS -- NBC wants Jay Leno to remain with the network after he exits from "The Tonight Show" in February, but there were no specifics from the network brass at this morning's "executive" session.
"The Tonight Show" ratings have surged in recent weeks, a phenomenon that NBCU Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt attributed to "fans rallying around him," much as they did the last time he left the show.
"I think we predicted that when we announced the final year, we would see a ratings boost as we did in Johnny Carson's final year and Jay's previous final year."
(Cue to laughter in audience...)
"I think the fans are going to rally for him in the next six months... It may appear it was almost a last-minute discussion a few months ago, but we've been having this discussion since the time I arrived, over the timing of the transition. Late night has declined ever year [across all networks]. It's the same story -- a percentage of 4 to 7percent decline every year, and we knew we had a platform coming up in the Olympics this coming year that we weren't going to have again for another four years. And we wanted to make it where the time period was really strong to give Jimmy Fallon the best chance of succeeding -- that's the reason for deciding to go with the coming year....
"We'd love to [have Jay Leno] stay on at NBC in some capacity. He's got a lot of things to sort through, but nothing would make us happier to have him, a la Bob Hope, still be appearing on the network.. We're still talking. But about specific things? Nothing official to report, but we're hoping we can do that."