Leno May Stay At NBC Post-'Tonight,' Network Pleased WIth Anchor Lineup

Jay Leno could remain at NBC beyond 2009 when he cedes his "Tonight Show" desk to Conan O'Brien. NBC Universal Chairman-CEO Bob Wright said the network will try to craft a new role for the man who succeeded Johnny Carson.

"We will do our best to entice Jay to do any number of things, and he'll make that call," Wright said yesterday at an Advertising Week event in New York.

Leno has said he will leave his "Tonight Show" host duties after 16 years on the job in 2009. O'Brien will succeed him.

NBC has a history of rewarding on-air talent that leaves the stage graciously. After Tom Brokaw left "Nightly News" anchor duties to Brian Williams, NBC gave him a new 10-year contract.

On other talent matters, Wright said that over the past four years, the network thought Katie Couric would try to launch her own syndicated Oprah-like talk show, rather than take the anchor role at CBS.

"Maybe Jane Pauley's experience was something in the back of her mind," he said. "I don't know."

Pauley's syndicated talk show had a precipitous demise.

Wright said NBC wanted Couric to stay on "Today," but he felt she just wanted a change. With Williams hosting the nightly newscast and Meredith Vieira replacing Couric on "Today," he said he is pleased with the network's position on both shows.

Wright also said yesterday that NBC may slash the amount it spends on programming in the coming years as dollars in the syndication market dry up. Unless NBC can recoup costs through emerging markets, such as digital distribution, it may have to look for ways to rein in costs.

"You have to be careful about your investment in shows if there is no back end," he said.

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