In Depth

NBC Gives Leno 10 p.m. Weeknight Slot Starting in Fall ’09

NBC has found a way to keep Jay Leno in the Peacock fold, signing the comic to host a Monday-through-Friday comedy/talk show at 10 p.m. starting in fall 2009.

That’s the word from industry insiders who’ve been briefed on the plan, which is expected to be formally announced Tuesday.

Mr. Leno has signed a new multiyear deal with NBC and will be given a significant pay raise, since his new show will be in prime time.

The agreement allows NBC to keep Mr. Leno on its team while also protecting soon-to-be “Tonight Show” host Conan O’Brien from facing significant competition from Mr. Leno. It had been widely expected that Mr. Leno would jump to ABC or Fox if he left NBC.

The deal with Mr. Leno also will allow NBC to lower its prime-time production costs. While Mr. Leno won’t come cheap, NBC will now have five hours of prime-time it no longer has to worry about programming.

All of the networks have had trouble launching 10 p.m. dramas in recent years, with many viewers choosing to watch prerecorded shows in the hour. Mr. Leno’s program is seen as more DVR-proof, since it will be live and topical.

NBC declined comment.