Nicholas Fonseca
December 09, 2008 AT 07:17 AM EST

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Jay Leno is coming to primetime TV. NBC is expected to

announce at a news conference on Tuesday that the Tonight Show host, who will

be succeeded by Conan O’Brien next May, has been given a new contract that will

keep him at the network. Though Leno and NBC weren’t commenting tonight, two

separate news reports say the 58-year-old comedian will front a series not unlike

the one he currently headlines, and that it will film in the same Burbank complex

that has long housed the Tonight Show. (O’Brien and his cohorts will beam from

the new NBC/Universal lot in Universal City.) Leno’s new show is expected to air five times weekly sometime before next fall.

The move comes just after Jeff Zucker told a luncheon in New

York City on Monday that the network—which announced staff cuts and a total

reorganization of its structure in recent days—could eventually have to program

fewer hours in its weekly schedule. It also saves NBC the cost of producing hour-long dramas for the 10 p.m. slot, a problem it’s faced in recent months

with now-canceled series like My Own Worst Enemy and Lipstick Jungle. Most important for

NBC, though, it keeps Leno, a proven ratings earner, in its stable at a time when it

needs him; there was heavy speculation that Leno would be courted by ABC (potentially replacing

Nightline and setting up a three-way battle with O’Brien and David Letterman). It also gives NBC a shot at airing that 21st-century variety format that Rosie O’Donnell tried–and failed–to bring back last month.

More TV:

Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Late Night’ video blog: Stand still, will ya?

TV Watch: Recaps of last night’s best in prime time

‘Boston Legal’: Why I’ll miss it

TV Spotlight: Fallon, O’Brien, Leno 

The Roots’ next gig: NBC’s ‘Late Night’?

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