US talk show host Jay Leno has taken a pay cut of between $US5 to $US10 million to help save The Tonight Show jobs, media reports say.
About 20 to 25 staff were set to lose their jobs as part of a major restructure of the NBC program, which is only breaking even financially although it is the top-rating late-night show on US television, the Los Angeles Timesreported, citing sources.
"Jay's foremost concern is for the wonderful people who work for The Tonight Show," Leno's spokesman Bruce Bobbins said in a statement. "He did what was necessary to ensure their well-being."
Leno is estimated to earn between $US25 to $US30 million a year, but his salary is expected to drop to about $US20 million, the Times reported, adding that other senior staff also agreed to pay cuts.
The Tonight Show costs about $US2.3 million to make each week. The new budget is expected to see the show produced at about $US1.7 million each week, the newspaper said.
An NBC source told Deadline Hollywood, which first reported the story, that the cuts were prompted by NBC's owners Comcast, the US cable company that acquired the network from General Electric 19 months ago.
"I don't think ad sales are off. I just think the people who bought this company, Comcast, wants to go through everything at NBC and get their money back," the source said.
"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."
Jay Leno hosted The Tonight Show from 1992 to 2009 on NBC. He was replaced by Conan O'Brien but returned to the 11.30pm slot after the program's ratings fell.