Jay Leno is set to receive $15 million to exit his NBC contract early, reports the New York Daily News citing insiders.
The "Tonight Show" host is currently contracted with the Peacock Network until September 2014, but has agreed to leave the show in February to make room for his successor, Jimmy Fallon. NBC decided to launch "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" in February 2014 to take advantage of the major advertising opportunities that will come with the Winter Olympics.
Last August, Leno volunteered to take a 50% pay cut to prevent major layoffs from the show, leaving his annual salary at an estimated $15 million. Since taking the "Tonight Show" job in 1992, Leno has famously declined to cash his NBC salary, living off his lucrative touring paychecks instead.
Leno's exit penalty is significantly less costly than the last time a "Tonight Show" host left the show. In 2009, Conan O'Brien cost the company $40 million when he left the show after only 7 months, and after 17 years of hosting "Late Night" on NBC.
This "Tonight Show" transition has gone much smoother than the O'Brien/Leno debacle. When NBC officially announced the change, Leno told the Times that he felt more included this time around. Leno's $15 million payday also seems to exclude the possibility that he will remain with the network in another capacity, as had happened in 2009.