FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2017 file photo, Jim Bell, participates in "The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics" panel during the NBC Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Beverly Hills, Calif. NBC announced Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, that Bell will serve as showrunner for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File)

Veteran NBC producer Jim Bell joins Jimmy Fallon's 'Tonight'

October 24, 2018 - 7:30 pm

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Veteran NBC news and sports producer Jim Bell took charge of Jimmy Fallon's "Tonight Show" as CBS late-night competitor Stephen Colbert edged closer among advertiser-favored young viewers.

Bell's assignment was announced Wednesday and follows the exit of longtime Fallon producer Mike DiCenzo, who tweeted Monday that he was taking a breather after a "dream" decade working on Fallon's "Late Night" and "Tonight."

Bell's wide-ranging career at NBC includes producing the "Today" morning show and creating its fourth hour. He worked on a dozen Olympic broadcasts and last year was promoted to president of NBC Olympics production and programming.

His move to "Tonight" recalls CBS' decision to bring in veteran TV news producer Chris Licht ("CBS This Morning") as showrunner for Colbert's "The Late Show" after its slow start in 2016.

The edgy political humor that now consistently marks Colbert's show is in contrast to Fallon's topical jokes, both in number and tone.

Bell isn't coming aboard to overhaul the show creatively, a person close to the "Tonight" production said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Late-night shows have an impact that belies their relatively small audiences, both as standard-bearers for their networks and in ad revenue.

Given the intense interest in the Trump administration and the upcoming election, Colbert's approach appears to be paying off: For the first four weeks of the new season, he's close to erasing Fallon's slim ratings lead with the 18-to-49 demographic.

Colbert is retaining supremacy in total viewers, which averaged 3.75 million at the conclusion of last season, followed by Fallon with 2.57 million and ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" with 2.17 million.

But NBC touts Fallon's younger audience (averaging 57.5 years, compared with 63.2 for Colbert) and the "Tonight" performance online, including most-viewed late-night show on YouTube.

Katie Hockmeyer and Gerard Bradford will retain their producing duties on "Tonight," NBC said. Bell will be the showrunner (a term commonly used for the producer overseeing all aspects of a program) as well as the executive in charge, the network said.

"Saturday Night Live" creator Lorne Michaels is the executive producer of "Tonight."

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Lynn Elber can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber .