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NBC has confirmed that Tonight Show host Jay Leno did agree to take a 50 percent pay cut, after network owner Comcast slashed the shows budget.
Leno will now get $15 million for hosting the late night show, which had its $100 million annual budget slashed by 20 percent. NBC also said that 20 members of the staff were laid off, leaving the show with around 200 staffers.
The layoffs were first reported in August, but NBC never released any specific numbers. Many reports speculated that the budget cuts were an attempt to lower the budget back to pre-2009 levels, when the network experimented with airing Leno’s show at 10pm. NBC entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that this was the case.
“All we did was bring it back down to pre-prime-time levels,” Greenblatt said.
The New York Daily News also noted that cast and NBC have had to battle steep drops in viewership and advertising.
The late night landscape continues to change, as, in addition to CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman, Leno now has cable rivals like Conan O’Brien and Jon Stewart. It isn’t likely to get any easier, especially with ABC moving up Jimmy Kimmel Live! to 11:35pm.
Greenblatt told the WSJ that he began paying close attention to the Tonight Show budget last spring.
“I went to his [Leno's] office and we sat down and I said, 'We have to be smart about how we do this show. We are in a difficult place at the network'…He understood,” Greenblatt said.
He and Leno also stressed that this will not change the quality of the Tonight Show.
“We are just going to work harder and more efficiently,” Leno wrote in an email. “Our job is to be sure that none of this shows up on screen.”