A report in The Wall Street Journal confirms that Jay Leno, longtime host of NBC’s “Tonight Show," took a big cut in his salary — a 50% cut, according to the network — when NBC came down on the show in a budget-cutting effort last month.[Note: The WSJ is behind a firewall and may charge you to read this story.]
The report, which cites NBC’s Robert Greenblatt as its source, says Leno is now making around $15 million a year, with his personal salary hack helping to trim about 20% from the show’s $100 million annual budget.
Other media outlets have reported significantly different estimates of Leno’s salary, with some placing his current pay at $20 million or higher.
“The mid-August cutbacks were widely covered in the media but without precise details from the network,” The WSJ piece reports. “At the time, most news reports said that Mr. Leno took a significant pay cut. NBC also clarified the number of layoffs, which it put at 20, among them writers and producers, reducing the show’s staff to about 200.”
Greenblatt, head of NBC Entertainment, confirmed Thursday that the latest budget moves were an effort to bring the show back in line with what its costs were before NBC’s ill-fated decision to move Leno to prime time in 2009, the story reports. The brief experiment ended when the network put Leno back in the 11:35 p.m. slot, but the higher prime-time budget remained in place.
"All we did was bring it back down to pre-prime-time levels," Greenblatt said, adding that the ‘Tonight Show’ is "not the cash cow it was in the Johnny Carson days." Greenblatt noted, however, that the show still makes money, according to the report.
The report adds: “Late-night broadcasts have taken a hit over the years as audiences scatter to the Web and cable-TV shows such as ‘The Daily Show With Jon Stewart’ on Viacom Inc.’s Comedy Central. While ‘Tonight’ remains the king of the late talk hours, its average total audience between last September and early August shrank 5% from the year before, according to Nielsen data provided by NBC. Most other late-night shows have seen similar declines.”