Loss of ‘Tonight Show,’ Jay Leno painful for Burbank

An NBC sign stands at the the studios in Burbank.
(David McNew / Getty Images)

Burbank officials Wednesday treated news that “The Tonight Show” was leaving for a new host in a new city like a painful breakup.

And as with most epic breakups, the rumor mill had been whirling for weeks. On Wednesday, NBC ended weeks of gossip and speculation by confirming that Jimmy Fallon will succeed Jay Leno as host of “The Tonight Show” in the spring of 2014.

Although Leno is still the most-watched late-night television host, NBC is making the move because it thinks Fallon will do better with younger viewers in the years to come.

Burbank Councilman David Gordon said losing the show would hurt a city that has benefited tremendously from the recognition “The Tonight Show” has provided.

“It’s too bad, because ‘The Tonight Show,’ in its various iterations over the years, has been very much identified with Burbank,” he said. “It’s really put Burbank on the map, internationally.”


Dozens, if not hundreds, of jobs could be affected by the move, not to mention the pain that ancillary businesses, such as restaurants and other venues, will probably feel.

Steven Ross -- president of the local chapter for the National Assn. of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, Local 53 -- said that even though many “Tonight Show” employees are technically “per diem” daily workers, the show will be losing about 50 union workers with years of experience.

“I worked on ‘The Tonight Show’ for 32 years … so technically one of those people that could be affected is myself,” he said.

Ross said the “Tonight Show” move comes as NBC Universal is moving most of its operations into new Universal City facilities.

“Up to 50 people-plus were laid off last year,” he said. “There won’t be any more NBC facilities or people in that lot within the next couple of years.”

Mary Hamzoian, the city’s economic development manager, said that although Burbank isn’t worried about losing one show, or one studio, “we are the media capital of the world.”

“NBC leaving is part of their larger plan, but they’re still within the region and what’s good for the region is good for Burbank,” she said.

She noted that Burbank is still a magnet for the industry, and that with NBC Universal moving out of its studio on Alameda -- now called Burbank Studios -- Clear Channel’s Internet radio platform iHeartRadio has already signed a 10-year lease for part of the space.

“There’s always an influx of media with Burbank because there’s both the bigger ones -- the studios -- and the smaller businesses as well,” she said. “To say that one or two are leaving, and that’s tarnishing our reputation, I wouldn’t say that at all … there’s really so much you can do.”

Still, with the city currently running a tourism campaign called “The Town Behind the Tinsel” – playing up Burbank’s Hollywood connections -- there’s no doubt that losing “The Tonight Show” is a blow.

“It’s definitely a tourist attraction.... We use that as a draw to come to Burbank, that ‘The Tonight Show’ is here,” Hamzoian said.


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