BURBANK, Calif. – NBC Universal plans to sell much of its 34-acre site in Burbank, the longtime home of "The Tonight Show," and move operations to Universal City, the company said.
The move will be short, just a couple miles to the other side of the concrete-lined Los Angeles River, but will trade the atmosphere of the business side of the entertainment industry for the tourism-oriented flair of Universal City.
NBC plans to move "The Tonight Show" to the Stage One lot at Universal Studios when Conan O'Brien takes over hosting duties upon Jay Leno's retirement in 2009.
It plans to take West Coast network and local news operations and other facilities such as the "Access Hollywood" set to a new state-of-the art broadcast facility across the street from Universal Studios in 2011.
The new facilities will be in a new building adjacent to a subway line connecting Universal City to downtown Los Angeles. They will be across the street from Universal Studios, the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park and the CityWalk tourist destination.
"When looking at our long-term business operations, we realized there are very real strategic and synergistic opportunities in bringing our production facilities and talent together to grow in Los Angeles," Tom Smith, senior vice president of West Coast real estate for NBC Universal, said in a statement posted on the KNBC-TV Web cite.
The move may consign to trivia books a long-running jest that gave the Los Angeles suburb a national identity among generations of American TV viewers who otherwise might never have heard of the city of postwar tract homes and working studios.
The Burbank studio, purchased in 1951, was made famous by the late "Tonight Show" host Johnny Carson's frequent tongue-in-cheek references to its location in "beautiful downtown Burbank."
The phrase was coined in 1961 by broadcast personality Gary Owens, who used it when announcing Los Angeles-area weather on radio station KFWB.
Owens, 70, said he popularized the phrase in 1968 as host of "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In," which broadcast from the NBC lot. Carson adopted it when the "Tonight Show" moved to Burbank from New York in 1972, he said.
NBC also announced that starting Oct. 22, MSNBC will begin originating from its new home at Manhattan's 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
The switchover from MSNBC's old Secaucus, New Jersey, home base will solidify an effort to combine the New York-based operations of NBC News and MSNBC under one roof. MSNBC will air from an 8,500-square-foot studio equipped with a motorized platform for the anchors that can travel on a 50-foot-long track.
Also on Oct. 22, "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams" will christen its refurbished Studio 3C, the network said.
Burbank Mayor Marsha Ramos said she was sad to learn "The Tonight Show" is leaving the city of 105,000.
"'The Tonight Show' put us on the map," she told the Los Angeles Times. "Without that line from Johnny Carson about beautiful downtown Burbank, most people wouldn't even know that we exist."