The Tonight Show went through "downsizing" yesterday and 20-25 staff members were laid off. Jay Leno, the host of The Tonight Show, took a "tremendous" cut in his salary, in order to prevent as many staff members from being laid off as he could.
The Tonight Show is the number one late night talk show in both households and demographics. Network's primetime ratings have continued to decrease over many years. After the conflict between Leno and Conan O'Brien, Leno still brought in big money for the network.
An NBC insider told deadline.com that they think Comcast "wants to go through everything at NBC and get their money back,"It's hard to go through those kinds of cuts. It's more a network issue than a late-night issue. And I would say that Jay doesn't get credit for digging out of a gigantic hole every single night. He's a very valuable guy to NBC and someday everyone will understand that. He does a great job."
Leno has already admitted publicly that he is "well off" and could simply live off of the money he receives from his other gigs. Leno's new salary is reportedly $27-$30 million a year.
Leno replaced Johnny Carson as host of The Tonight Show in 1992 after having been a regular substitute host since 1987. He "officially" ended hosting of The Tonight Show in 2009 when Conan O'Brien started on June 1st. Leno was going to be paid for all of 2009 by NBC even though he was only working six months of it. When his ratings dipped, O'Brien was asked to move The Tonight Show's time slot later to make room for Leno's return at 11:30 PM. O'Brien refused. NBC gave Conan a $40M payoff (including salaries for his staff) to leave The Tonight Show hosting job which Leno resumed in 2010.