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Leno is close to a deal to host a new show for cable network CNBC, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter. The show will focus on Leno’s longtime love of cars and will air in primetime, not late night.
Landing Leno is a coup for CNBC. The network, known for financial news, has been trying to broaden its viewership by airing reality shows like The Profit and Restaurant Startup in primetime. Its biggest draw is reruns of financial game show Shark Tank, which have performed very well for the network.
Leno, 64, has been looking for the right home since he passed the Tonight Show baton to Jimmy Fallon before the Winter Olympics in February. Sources say he was courted by several outlets, including CNN, A&E, History and the Tribune stations. But Leno has been loyal to NBC (his car-themed web series Jay’s Garage is still hosted on NBC.com), and he has a relationship with CNBC president Mark Hoffman. CNBC aired a Jay’s Garage special over the Labor Day weekend called Jay’s Garage: The Ultimate Car Week.
Sources say a premiere date for the Leno show has not been set, nor has the frequency of the show, which will be a regular series. The comic hasn’t slowed down since giving up his nightly NBC perch after 22 years. Unlike his Tonight Show predecessor Johnny Carson, who mostly disappeared from the public eye when he left the show in 1992, the famously workaholic Leno has kept busy. He has toured the country with his stand-up act, hosted an awards show in Jerusalem in May, and earlier this month he joined NBC’s Al Roker and others in Afghanistan to launch a USO tour.
CNBC declined to comment on Leno or the negotiations, but NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt, who famously clashed with Leno when the comic took aim at NBC’s low primetime ratings, said last summer that he hoped to keep Leno in the NBC family in an elder statesman role. “Nothing would make us happier than for him, a la Bob Hope, to still be a presence on the network,” Greenblatt said during the TCA summer press tour in July 2013.
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