Official: Jimmy Fallon to replace Jay Leno

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Image Credit: Andrew Eccles/NBC

It’s official: NBC announced today that Jimmy Fallon will succeed Jay Leno on The Tonight Show.

Leno will wrap up 22 years of hosting the franchise in spring 2014, at the end of network’s coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Fallon, who currently reigns at 12:30 a.m. with his Late Night, will then take over as the franchise’s sixth host.

As previously reported, The Tonight Show will return to its original home in 30 Rock in New York and will be executive-produced by Lorne Michaels (Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock). He replaces longtime EP Debbie Vickers.

It’s unclear who will take over Late Night, Fallon’s current show. An announcement is expected soon.

“Congratulations Jimmy,” Leno said in a statement. “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.” Added Fallon in a statement, “I’m really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow.”

“Jay Leno is an entertainment icon, making millions of people laugh every weeknight for more than 20 years,” said Steve Burke, Chief Executive Officer of NBCUniversal. “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.

NBC added in its announcement today that The Tonight Show has ranked No. 1 — ahead of its ABC and CBS — in 18-49 viewers and total viewers for each season since Leno’s return in March 2010 and for the 14 seasons before his departure in May 2009.  During the current season, Tonight is consistently No. 1 versus his rivals, averaging a 0.8 rating, 3 share in adults 18-49 and 3.5 million viewers.

Fallon’s Late Night has ranked No. 1 in 18-49 versus the time period’s ABC and CBS competition each season since debuting in March of 2009.

On Monday, the two late-night hosts seemed to indicate there was no bad blood between them by performing a “duet” that mocked the ongoing speculation about who’s going and who’s leaving.

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