All is not well at Comcast-NBC. First, “The Tonight Show” has laid off about two dozen workers, prompting host Jay Lenoto accept a pay cut to spare other staffers as NBC clamps down on expenses. Second, Radar OnLine is reporting that Matt Lauer is “hated” by several long-time producers of TODAY and the crew is in turmoil, all as a result of the morning show host having pushed NBC executives to dump Ann Curry. First…ole shovel-head: NBC Universal imposed The Tonight Show cutbacks Friday, according to a person familiar with the moves. The person asked not to be identified because NBC Universal hadn’t officially disclosed the cost cutting.
The payroll purge affected about 10 percent of the roughly 200 people who work on “The Tonight Show,” still the top-rated late-night program. Viewers shouldn’t notice any changes in programming at “The Tonight Show,” the person said. NBC Universal is trying to improve its financial performance under the ownership of Comcast Corp., which bought the entertainment company last year. Leno had been making between $25 million to $30 million annually as the host of “The Tonight Show.” His salary will be reduced to about $20 million after making the job-saving concessions. Leno also brings in substantial income touring as a stand-up comedian. “Jay’s foremost concern is for the wonderful people who work with him at ‘The Tonight Show,’” said Bruce Bobbins, a spokesman for Leno. “He did what was necessary to ensure their well-being.” Several other staffers on “The Tonight Show” also absorbed pay cuts.
David Letterman, the host of a rival late-night show on CBS, accepted a significant pay cut in 2009. The show’s cost-cutting measures were first reported by Deadline Hollywood, a website that tracks the entertainment industry. Comcast bought a controlling interest in NBC Universal for $6.2 billion in cash and several cable-TV channels valued at $7.25 billion. Besides its TV network and several cable channels, NBC also owns the Universal Pictures movie studio and theme parks. Comcast, which is based in Philadelphia, makes most of its money selling cable TV and high-speed Internet access. Despite its solid ratings, “The Tonight Show” hasn’t been a big moneymaker. That prompted the cuts Friday, which are expected to trim the program’s weekly budget by about $600,000, or 25 percent, to $1.7 million. That’s back to its levels of a few years ago.
Leno outmaneuvered Letterman to succeed Johnny Carson as “The Tonight Show” host in 1992 and remained in one of television’s most sought-after jobs for the next 17 years. At NBC’s behest, he left the show in 2009 and was replaced by Conan O’Brien. After a few months hosting his own show in an earlier time slot, Leno returned as “The Tonight Show” host in 2010 in a decision that provoked a nasty fight between O’Brien and NBC. O’Brien now hosts a late-night talk show on TBS. During Leno’s brief stint hosting his prime-time program, his show’s weekly budget escalated and wasn’t reduced significantly to reflect his return to the late-night slot until now.
There are several producers that have been with the TODAY Show for a very long time, over ten years, and Matt Lauer is now hated by them because they feel that he is responsible for Ann Curry’s being fired. Ann was tremendously popular with the producers, cameramen, and other staffers of the show because she truly is a team player. Ann was all about the news, and breaking stories, just a true pro,” a source close to the situation told RadarOnLine. “Matt on the other hand has been known to act like a real diva. The staffers are disgruntled because they were looking forward to working with Ann during the Olympics and she ended up relegated to very limited camera time and didn’t even appear until several days before the games ended,” the source says.
Just how bad are things at Today? An inside source told Radar OnLine “Ann had been part of the TODAY show for over 15 years, and her send off was just horribly executed. It’s not lost on anyone that GMA beat the TODAY show on Wednesday in the ratings yet again. Viewers have had enough and the show just isn’t staying relevant. Morale is extremely low and something is going to need to change very quickly before they can get the TODAY show back in first place for good.” During Thursday’s show Al Roker seemed to take a dig at Matt Lauer for throwing Ann “under the bus.” “The ladies threw you in the water after winning the gold?” Lauer asked Olympic women’s rowing team member and California-native, Mary Whipple.
“The tradition here in New York is you throw her in the Hudson River.” Roker cheekily quipped: “Which is different to our tradition here which is to throw one of us under the bus! But that’s a different story…” After a second of stunned silence — and nervous laughter — both Lauer and Guthrie said with a sarcastic tone, “Mr. Roker!” Roker may have responded with a cryptic Tweet on Friday, “Some competitors are classier than others. Sad, really,” after CBS and ABC News did stories about the popular weatherman’s comments about being thrown under the bus.