Zucker assures press of 2009 switch

NBC U chief Jeff Zucker is sticking by the conglom’s plan to shift Conan O’Brien to “The Tonight Show,” even though its current host, Jay Leno, loves his job.

“Conan O’Brien will take over the ‘Tonight Show’ in 2009,” Zucker reiterated to a crowd of media reporters and NBC U staffers at a breakfast in Gotham for the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University on Monday.

Zucker said that talks to keep Leno at the Peacock, and prevent him from jumping to Fox or ABC, are ongoing.

“I would very much like to keep him in the famly and those discussions are going on now,” he said. “The good news here is that Jay Leno is under contract for another two years so we have time to work this out. I’m hopeful Jay will be with us beyond 2009.”

During Leno’s 15-year stint as “Tonight Show” host, he has built a commanding ratings lead over CBS’s “Late Show with David Letterman.” He leads by 39% in adults 18-49 over Letterman in the season thusfar.

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