NBC: Leno Took $15 Million Pay Cut to Prevent Additional Layoffs at Tonight Show

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 26: TV personality Jay Leno (Credit: Getty Images)

Jay Leno agreed to give up 50 percent of his salary — or $15 million — in order to reduce layoffs at “The Tonight Show,” a NBC Universal spokesperson told CNN.

A source “with direct knowledge of the situation” told CNN last month that NBC has already laid off 20 to 25 employees of “The Tonight Show” and Leno adjusted his salary accordingly to prevent any additional firings. 

CNN’s source said the layoffs were made in order to cut expenses to match typical late-night programming instead of an expensive prime time program. CNN has more background:

Leno replaced the legendary Johnny Carson as host of “The Tonight Show” in 1992, a job he held for 17 years before he left in 2009 to helm “The Jay Leno Show” with a 10 p.m. start time. But a few months later, in January 2010, NBC announced that the comedian would return to the 11:35 p.m. time slot.

The comic’s venture into prime time three years ago was pitched as an attempt by the network to parlay his proven popularity into a commercially successful show.

But lagging ratings prompted NBC executives to change course within a few months. That move ultimately led to fellow talk show host Conan O’Brien’s departure from the network. O’Brien, who had taken over “The Tonight Show,” now hosts the show “Conan” on TBS, which, like CNN, is a division of Time Warner

Leno’s contract has been extended through September 2014, according to the report.