NBC's Tonight show, which once contributed $100 million annually to NBC's bottom line, is now "barely breaking even," the Los Angeles Times reported today (Tuesday), citing people familiar with the matter. That plunge in revenue triggered this month's layoffs of about 20 staff members of the show and host Jay Leno's offer to take a 10-percent salary cut to save additional jobs, the Times said. Leno, the newspaper reported, even offered to work for free to save more jobs, but executives rejected the offer because, they said, it would set a bad precedent. (Last week, Leno opened his monologue by remarking, "Welcome to the Tonight show, or as Comcast [NBC's controlling owner] calls us, The Expendables. ") The Times attributed the show's difficulties to falling ratings that resulted from the Leno/Conan O'Brien debacle in 2009, increased competition from late-night cable hosts like O'Brien and Jon Stewart who attract younger viewers, and "the instability afflicting the TV business in general." Unmentioned in the article is the increasing use of digital video recorders by viewers who tape shows during primetime and view them late at night. Meanwhile, Howard Stern, a judge on NBC's America's Got Talent , has told the Hollywood Reporter that an NBC executive threatened him after he called Leno "a spineless maggot" on his radio talk show for failing to stand up to the network over the cuts. Stern said that he replied, "Do not tell me to not talk about Jay Leno. I will f***ing talk about Jay Leno for four hours if you tell me not to."
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