New details of NBC's "The Tonight Show" budget cuts from August reveal that late-night host Jay Leno agreed to a 50 percent pay cut, single-handedly slimming the show's overall budget by 20 percent, the Wall Street Journal reports.
NBC's new budget for the show amounts to $80 million, down from $100 million. After the cut, Leno's new salary will account for $15 million of the overall total. The talk show king also extended his contract with the network through 2014.
In August, the Los Angeles Times reported Leno volunteered to the salary cut if it could save the jobs of some of the show's 200 odd staffers. Even with the gesture, close to 20 workers were laid off, Deadline.com reported
"Jay's foremost concern is for the wonderful people who work for 'The Tonight Show,'" Bruce Bobbins, one of Leno's spokesmen, said in a statement. "He did what was necessary to ensure their well-being."
The mid-August restructuring effort by the Peacock Network reflected "The Tonight Show's" less-than-stellar ratings. While the segment is still technically atop the late night heap, it's only breaking even financially.
Leno ripped into the network and its parent company Comcast in a monologue delivered soon after news of the budget cuts became public.
"Welcome to The Tonight Show, or as Comcast calls us, The Expendables," Leno joked. "As you may have heard, our parent company has downsized The Tonight Show. ... We've consistently been number one in the ratings, and if you know anything about our network, that kind of thing is frowned upon."
Leno was poking fun at the fact that NBC is often fourth-place among prime-time viewers, a troubling indicator which generally means a smaller lead-in audience for the late-night line up, Forbes points out.
In a trend that has affected late-night shows across the networks, however, audiences are being steadily siphoned away by Web and cable-shows, such as Comedy Central's popular "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report."
In an interview with the WSJ, NBC's entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt also said the cuts were necessary to counteract the tens of millions of dollars in budget increases implemented when Leno switched briefly to prime-time in 2009.
"All we did was bring it back down to pre-prime-time levels," Greenblatt said.
Either way, Leno isn't exactly suffering. Along with his contract extension -- worth $30 million over two years -- the comedian also rakes in additional millions annually for stand-up performances and commercial appearances, according to Time.