There's major trouble behind the scenes of NBC's Tonight Show. Around two dozen people are being laid off, senior staff members are taking huge pay cuts and the show's operating budget is being peeled back. Even Leno wasn't spared.
Deadline Hollywood's Nikke Finke broke the news of The Tonight Show's "downsizing" late Friday night. Between 20 and 25 people are being laid off as part of a budget restructuring plan to bring the show back to the same weekly budget it operated under before Leno left for primetime and Conan O'Brien took over, according to the L.A. Times. Before Leno left, the show had a weekly budget of $1.7 million. That number inflated over time to $2.3 million, but it's going back down to pre-Conan levels.
Leno got a raise when he returned to the Tonight Show chair. His salary was thought to be between $25 and $30 million, but a source told the Times his new salary is around $20 million. He took the cut, according to Finke's sources, in order to "save as many people’s jobs as he could." Additionally, a number of senior Tonight Show staff were forced to take significant pay cuts as part of the cuts.
There's some debate over how well the show's doing financially. Finke called the show a "cash cow," and credited the cuts to Comcast trying to bleed as much profit from the show as it could. But the Times says the show "is only break-even." We joke about how inept NBC is at marketing its greatest shows (30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Community), but messing up the legacy of The Tonight Show might be the network's greatest failure.