While NBC execs are being tight-lipped regarding speculation building on the Internet, the buzz on Leno is that the beleaguered talk show host will be returning to the helm of “The Tonight Show” later this year.

“NBC executives said a decision would definitely not be announced Thursday but did not deny a report posted by the website TMZ that NBC was considering making the switch and replacing Mr. O’Brien at ‘Tonight’ with Mr. Leno,” New York Times columnist Bill Carter reported today.

The scenario posited by most of the rumors is that Leno’s 10 p.m. show will go “on hiatus” Feb. 1, ostensibly because of the Winter Olympics, and then magically return to the 11:30 p.m. slot with the name “The Tonight Show.”

What all of this means for Conan O’Brien and his “Late Night” replacement Jimmy Fallon is unclear.

NBC execs continue to assert that they’re standing behind Leno and his 10 p.m. experiment, but issued a statement today that leaves them considerable wiggle room.

“Jay Leno is one of the most compelling entertainers in the world today,” the statement reads. “As we have said all along, Jay’s show has performed exactly as we anticipated on the network.” (Wiggle coming in 3,2,1…)

“It has, however, presented some issues for our affiliates. Both Jay and the show are committed to working closely with them to find ways to improve the performance.”

And there you have it. If it were simply up to NBC, it’s clear that they’re committed enough to Leno that they’d keep him at 10 p.m. whether the ratings were there or not, even if it was just out of a stubborn refusal to admit their mistake.

However, “presented some issues for our affiliates” is a huge understatement. Since “The Jay Leno Show” debuted last year, NBC’s local affiliates have suffered withering ratings losses for their 11 p.m. newscasts as viewers deserted the network in droves.

And in the end, it’s the affiliates who ultimately call the shots because without them, no one would ever see an NBC program again, even if it was a masterpiece of programming.

In another blow to the Peacock Network, David Hasselhoff revealed to People magazine that he is vacating his seat next to Sharon Osborne on “America’s Got Talent” after four years.

“I am proud that I was part of making ‘America’s Got Talent’ the No. 1 rates show for the past four summers,” The Hoff told People. “It’s been a rewarding experience and now I’m thrilled to be able to follow my dream to do my own TV show, which will be announced very shortly.”

NBC execs told the magazine that the search for a replacement will begin shortly. Calling all cheesey and kinda creepy ’80s B-list celebs. Here’s your big chance for a (minor) comeback.

Thursday, January 7
Wanda Sykes – “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”
Josh Wolf, Sarah Colonna, Ross Mathews – “Chelsea Lately”
Nick Jonas & The Administration – “Late Show with David Letterman”
Mikey Day – “The Jay Leno Show”
Jencarlos Canela – “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien”
Puddle of Mudd – “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
Steven Wright – “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson”
Drennon Davis – “Last Call with Carson Daly” – rerun

Friday, January 8
Nick Jonas – “Live with Regis and Kelly”
Mary J. Blige – “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”
Brad Wollack,Donnell Rawlings, Jen Kirkman – “Chelsea Lately”
The Dodos – “Late Show with David Letterman”
Aziz Ansari, OK Go – “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien”
Nick Jonas & The Administration – “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”
Colbie Caillat – “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
Metric – “Last Call with Carson Daly” – rerun

Saturday, January 9
Alicia Keys – “Saturday Night Live” – rerun
Allen Toussaint – “Austin City Limits”