The Inevitability of Jimmy Fallon's Succession to "The Tonight Show" Is Now Even More Inevitable
No definitive timetable has been set, but Leno's contract expires in the fall of 2014, and NBC is in a hurry to re-up Fallon before he goes out on the open market. It's expected that Fallon will take over The Tonight Show's hosting duties sometime in late 2014, where he's expected to fend off Jimmy Kimmel, who has been grabbing a new generation of viewers over on ABC since he moved into the 11:35 slot.
The only wrinkle in this is that, despite his relative unpopularity with critics and other late-night talk show hosts, Leno still leads in the ratings. Presumably this time, however, NBC won't balk if they suffer a short-term drop under Fallon in the new time slot. He is, after all, the best late-night talk show in the business (excluding the Comedy Central guys).
Who will take over "Late Night" is still an open question, although there has been some silly speculation that it'd go to Howard Stern. Another question is whether Letterman will also retire, and who would replace him. Jon Stewart -- who once had a holding contract to replace Letterman -- seems like the appropriate choice, especially in light of his leave from "The Daily Show" this summer, when John Oliver will get a three-month tryout in his seat.