NBC has confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that it cut late-night star Jay Leno’s salary by fifty percent as part of an attempt to control spending. The network is now paying Mr. Leno about $15 million annually, not that he’s complaining; his contract has been extended to May 2014. Network head Robert Greenblatt told the Journal: “”I went to his [Leno’s] office and we sat down and I said, ‘We have to be smart about how we do this show. We are in a difficult place at the network’…He understood.”
Late night has been a perpetual trouble spot for NBC, even as it continues to lead in the ratings; the inflated budget for Mr. Leno’s show was a remnant of the show’s move to 10pm to make room for Conan O’Brien, a swiftly rectified mistake that resulted in Mr. O’Brien’s departure for the network and a new vulnerability for the venerable Tonight Show. Jimmy Kimmel’s move to 11:35pm on ABC (displacing Nightline) will only intensify competition in an area that NBC once dominated (shades of the early-morning news wars!).