NBC is paying Jay Leno a whopping $15 million to step down as host of The Tonight Show, months before his contract ends.
The network wants Leno to step down as host months before his contract expires in September 2014, making way for Jimmy Fallon to step in.
The payout is part of Leno’s deal to leave the show, which he has hosted for 22 years. The New York Daily News reports that the payoff, which is equal to Leno’s annual salary, doesn’t compare to the money he makes doing standup in Las Vegas (I had no idea he did this?).
As the shake-up was confirmed after weeks of speculation, Leno told Fallon he was ‘counting on’ him to keep network ratings high.
In his opening monologue of Wednesday’s show Leno said: ‘I just have one request of Jimmy. We’ve all fought, kicked and scratched to get this network up to fifth place, okay?
‘Now we have to keep it there. Jimmy don’t let it slip into sixth. We’re counting on you.’
The replacement move, which had been anticipated for weeks, was announced yesterday and will officially take place following the network’s broadcast of the Winter Olympics.
Fallon will more than double his multi-million dollar salary when he takes over from outgoing host Jay Leno next year on the top-rated NBC show.
Industry insiders predict that Fallon will see the $5million he gets for fronting ‘The Late Show’ boosted to $12 million when he goes head-to-head with CBS’ David Letterman and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel in February.
Although Fallon’s pay packet will be three million less than the $15million Leno takes home, it still represents a massive show of faith in Fallon, who has been working late night television for less than five years.
I think this is really good news for NBC… I think the shakeup was desperately needed!
FYI: If Jay Leno made anywhere from $10 – $15 million a year – and he’s hosted for 22 years….. He’s easily made over $200,000,000 in his run as host of The Tonight Show. That’s insanity.