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NBC Denies Leno Report, Affirms Commitment to Show

NBC issued a denial about a report on the media blog FTVLive that network executives are ready to pull the plug on The Jay Leno Show.

"Jay Leno is one of the most compelling entertainers in the world today. As we have said all along, Jay's show has performed exactly as we anticipated on the network. It has, however, presented some issues for our affiliates. Both Jay and the show are committed to working closely with them to find ways to improve the performance."

Leno and NBC have been buffeted by criticism since the show premiered last September. NBC executives have maintained from the outset that they could make money if Leno maintained an average 18-49 rating of 1.5. But they may not have anticipated the halo effect that the show has had on NBC's primetime in general and affiliates specifically. Year-to-year ratings for the 10 p.m. time period have sank 35%, dragging affiliate stations 11 p.m. newscasts down as well.

One scenario posited by the FTVLive report has Leno getting the axe as soon as next month, after the conclusion of the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Another has Leno hanging on until NBC's pilot development shakes out. The network has 18 pilots on tap, its biggest order in years. Executives have maintained that the investment in new scripted programming is simply a function of the fourth-place networks need to rebuild.

A call to the NBC affiliates board chairman was not returned on short notice.