Late night talk show hosts Jay Leno (L) and Jimmy Fallon pose backstage at the 70th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California, in this January 13, 2013 file photo.
NEW YORK — "Late Night" talk show host Jimmy Fallon will assume one of the most visible positions in U.S. television next year as new host of the "Tonight Show," succeeding Jay Leno who held the job for more than two decades, NBC said on Wednesday.
Leno "will wrap up what will be 22 years of headlining the iconic late-night show in spring 2014," NBC said in a statement, adding that Fallon would "transition into new hosting duties on 'The Tonight Show'" after Leno ends his run.
The network said it was moving the show from its Burbank studio, outside Los Angeles, to New York, where it began in 1954, capping weeks of speculation about the succession plans.
Leno, 62, who was replaced by Conan O'Brien in 2009 in a public relations debacle for the network only to return a few months later, congratulated Fallon.
"I hope you're as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you're the old guy," he said.
Fallon, 38, who started out on the long-running "Saturday Night Live" comedy show in 1998, said: "I'm really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow," referring to his current program's post-midnight start time.
NBC said "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock" producer Lorne Michaels would serve as executive producer of the relocated show. It will be broadcast from NBC headquarters in New York's Rockefeller Center.
"We are purposefully making this change when Jay is number-one, just as Jay replaced Johnny Carson when he was number-one," said Steve Burke, NBCUniversal's CEO.
Fallon will start hosting the show in conjunction with NBC's coverage of next year's Winter Olympic Games from Sochi, Russia, Burke said. No specific date was announced.
The network also said that programming plans for the 12:35 a.m. time slot now filled by Fallon's show would be announced soon.