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Network: Leno took 50% pay cut to reduce 'Tonight Show' layoffs

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:15 AM EDT, Sat September 8, 2012
Jay Leno speaks with President Barack Obama on
Jay Leno speaks with President Barack Obama on "the Tonight Show with Jay Leno" in October.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The cut amounts to $15 million, NBC Universal says
  • He also extended contract until 2014, the network says
  • "The Tonight Show" staff was cut by up to 25 employees, source said

(CNN) -- Jay Leno took one for the team, in the form of a $15 million pay cut, to protect the staff of NBC's "The Tonight Show" from further cuts.

An NBC Universal representative confirmed Friday that the host took a 50% pay reduction.

The representative also confirmed that Leno extended his contract until September 2014.

A source with direct knowledge of the situation told CNN last month that 20 to 25 employees of "The Tonight Show" were let go and that Leno made the salary concession to prevent even more staff reductions.

According to the source, the layoffs were part of a plan to adjust the show's expenses to be more in line with typical late-night programming as opposed to prime-time fare.

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 jokes about 'Tonight Show' layoffs

CNN's Denise Quan and Jane Caffrey contributed to this report.

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