Television host Jay Leno
Television host Jay Leno - 
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Steve Chiotakis: Tonight, Jay Leno returns to the screen in a new role as NBC's prime time savior. A lot of media executives will be glued to their TV screen, as Ashley Milne-Tyte reports.

Ashley Milne-Tyte: If the Jay Leno Show takes off, other networks could fill that same prime time slot with charismatic entertainers.

Ben Grossman is editor-in-chief of Broadcasting and Cable. He says with TV audiences dwindling, it makes sense for NBC to veer away from expensive dramas. The network will save about $13 million a week this way. But he says Leno will be doing something different this time of night:

Ben Grossman: On The Tonight Show, remember, basically it was do a lot of great stuff off at the top, because you know people are going to fall asleep, literally, as it goes on, because the show doesn't start till 11:30, right? Now he's got to deliver an audience to the 11 o'clock news.

Grossman says Leno has to keep people engaged right up to that 11 o'clock news slot with banter instead of music. That's because the news is a big moneymaker.

Does NBC have a back-up plan in case the show flops? The network isn't saying. But NBC does say it's committed to Leno for at least a year.

I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.