"The `Tonight' show will bring even more jobs and economic activity to our city, and we couldn't be happier that one of New York's own is bringing the show back to where it started, and where it belongs," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
New York state recently added a tax credit in its budget that seemed designed specifically to benefit NBC's move East with "Tonight."
While a storied part of television tradition, the network late-night shows find themselves with much more competition now with cable programs like "Adult Swim," smaller talk shows hosted by the Comedy Central duo of Stewart and Colbert, Chelsea Handler and a device — a large number of people take that time to watch programs they had taped earlier on their DVRs.
NBC is worried that ABC's Kimmel will establish himself as a go-to late night performer for a younger generation if the network doesn't move swiftly to install Fallon. ABC moved Kimmel's time slot to directly compete with Leno earlier this year.
But the move also has the potential to backfire with Leno's fans, who did not embrace O'Brien when Leno was temporarily moved to prime time a few years ago.
"The guys at NBC are not totally stupid and are not going to shoot themselves in the foot," said Gary Carr, senior vice president and executive director of national broadcast for the ad buying firm TargetCast. "I think it's a good move for them long-term. But it may have short-term ramifications."
NBC has long prided itself on smooth transitions but that reputation took a hit with the short-lived and ill-fated move of O'Brien to "Tonight" and Leno to prime-time a few years ago. In morning television, the "Today" show has taken a ratings nose dive in large measure because of anger at how Ann Curry was treated when she was ousted last year as Matt Lauer's co-host.