Jay Leno takes 50% pay cut

Jay Leno (CNN)

(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 to CNN on 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 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.

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

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