It’s Official: Jimmy Fallon Will Replace Jay Leno

Well, it’s finally official. Jimmy Fallon will be replacing Jay Leno at The Tonight Show.

Rumors have been circulating for months that Leno would step away from the late night show but NBC finally made it official today. The network released a statement saying that Leno will retire from The Tonight Show next spring. Jimmy Fallon, who currently hosts Late Night, will move down to the 11:35 time slot.

The change will coincide with NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics and should provide Fallon with large debut audience.

Steve Burke, Chief Executive Officer of NBCUniversal, said: “Jay Leno is an entertainment icon, making millions of people laugh every weeknight for more than 20 years … His long reign as the highest-rated late-night host is a testament to his work ethic and dedication to his viewers and to NBC. We are purposefully making this change when Jay is #1, just as Jay replaced Johnny Carson when he was #1. Jimmy Fallon is a unique talent and this is his time. I’m thrilled he will become the sixth host of The Tonight Show at exactly the right moment, in conjunction with our coverage of next year’s Winter Olympic Games from Sochi, Russia.”

Leno said today that it “feels right” to be stepping away from the show. Leno said that the last time he left, when he was replaced by Conan O’Brien, he was forced out of the show.

Leno said: “The main difference between this and the other time is I’m part of the process. The last time the decision was made without me. I came into work one day and — you’re out. (This time) there really aren’t any complications like there were the last time. This time it feels right.”

Leno added: “Congratulations Jimmy. I hope you’re as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you’re the old guy. If you need me, I’ll be at the garage.”

Fallon said: “I have nothing but respect for Jay … If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have a show to be taking over … I’m really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow.”

Fallon’s replacement hasn’t been named yet but the safe money is on Seth Meyers.

In the release today, NBC noted that Jay Leno has been ranked No.1, ahead of ABC and CBS, in total viewers and the 18-49 demographic for the last 15 years. Leno has been No.1 since his return to the show in 2010 and was No.1 for 14 seasons prior to his departure in 2009.

Fallon has also had an impressive streak at no.1. Fallon has been No. 1 since taking over Late Night in 2009.

Do you think Jimmy Fallon will make a good host for The Tonight Show?