Layoffs, pay cuts. Troubled firm? No. 'The Tonight Show.'

'The Tonight Show' is laying off at least 20 workers in major budget restructuring. Host Jay Leno, other staffers accept pay cuts to avoid more layoffs. 

Margaret Norton/NBC/AP/File
This photo released Monday by NBC shows first lady Michelle Obama, left, Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas, and host Jay Leno during a taping of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," in Burbank, Calif. The show is losing some two dozen staffers as a result of NBC budget cuts.

Tonight Show” host Jay Leno is taking a significant reduction in pay and roughly two dozen staffers are being let go as part of a major budget restructuring at the late-night talk show.

Although “The Tonight Show” remains the top-rated late-night program, from a financial standpoint it is only break-even, according to a person familiar with the economics of the show. One reason for that is that the production budget of the show was not reduced when Leno moved back to late night after his ill-fated stint in prime time during the 2009-10 television season.

Leno’s current salary is between $25 million and $30 million and he volunteered to take a cut if it would save some jobs. A person close to the network thought Leno’s new salary is likely around $20 million. Bruce Bobbins, one of Leno’s spokesmen, declined to comment.

In a statement later Bobbins said, “Jay’s foremost concern is for the wonderful people who work for ‘The Tonight Show.’ He did what was necessary to ensure their well-being.”

While an NBC spokeswoman declined to comment on the situation, the job losses are said to be between 20 and 25 people and many other senior staffers also agreed to pay cuts.

The weekly budget for Leno’s prime time show was approximately $2.3 million and it stayed there when he returned to late night and Conan O’Brien was sent packing. The budget now will be closer to $1.7 million, which is in the range of what it was during Leno’s previous late-night stint.

Leno is not the first late-night host to agree to a salary reduction. In 2009, CBS restructured David Letterman’s deal and reduced his salary and the budget of the show.

Whether NBC will look to other areas to make additional cuts is yet to be determined. Earlier this year, the network trimmed its marketing and promotions staff.

News of the cuts were first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to