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‘The Tonight Show’ cuts staff; Leno trims pay
Question of the Day
The payroll purge affected about 10 percent of the roughly 200 people who work on “The Tonight Show,” still the top-rated late-night program. Viewers shouldn’t notice any changes in programming on the show, the person said.
Mr. Leno had been making between $25 million to $30 million annually as the host of “The Tonight Show.” His salary will be reduced to about $20 million after making the job-saving concessions. Mr. Leno also brings in substantial income touring as a stand-up comedian.
Several other staffers on “The Tonight Show” also absorbed pay cuts.
David Letterman, the host of a rival late-night show on CBS, accepted a significant pay cut in 2009.
The NBC show’s cost-cutting measures were first reported by Deadline Hollywood, a website that tracks the entertainment industry.
Comcast bought a controlling interest in NBC Universal for $6.2 billion in cash and several cable-TV channels valued at $7.25 billion. NBC also owns the Universal Pictures movie studio and theme parks.
Comcast, which is based in Philadelphia, makes most of its money selling cable TV and high-speed Internet access.
Despite its solid ratings, “The Tonight Show” hasn’t been a big moneymaker. That prompted the cuts Friday, which are expected to trim the program’s weekly budget by about $600,000, or 25 percent, to $1.7 million. That’s back to its levels of a few years ago.
Mr. Leno outmaneuvered Mr. Letterman to succeed Johnny Carson as “The Tonight Show” host in 1992 and remained in one of television’s most-sought-after jobs for the next 17 years. At NBC’s behest, he left the show in 2009 and was replaced by Conan O'Brien. After a few months hosting his own show in an earlier time slot, Mr. Leno returned as “The Tonight Show” host in 2010 in a decision that provoked a nasty fight between Mr. O'Brien and NBC.
Mr. O'Brien now hosts a late-night talk show on TBS
During Mr. Leno’s brief stint hosting his prime-time program, his show’s weekly budget escalated and wasn’t reduced significantly to reflect his return to the late-night slot until now.
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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