”I’m still not making Dave money,” Jay Leno told the New York Times on Monday, as NBC announced it had renewed his contract through 2009. However, he did call his new salary ”a good raise” and added: ”If you can’t live on what I make there’s something wrong with you.” Under his current contract, which expires at the end of 2005, the ”Tonight” host makes a reported $16 to $18 million per year, compared to $31 million for CBS rival David Letterman. But under the new deal, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the late-night ratings leader will earn $27 million per year, making the deal worth at least $100 million to Leno.
Leno isn’t earning Dave’s critical respect either, but he trounces Letterman in the ratings, regularly scoring 6 million viewers to ”Late Show”’s 4 million. His show is also the biggest moneymaker of all NBC shows except for ”Today.”
Leno’s new contract doesn’t necessarily mean five years of late-night stability for NBC. Though the renewal through 2009 means that Leno will have hosted ”Tonight” for 17 years, it’s not clear that ”Late Night”’s Conan O’Brien will want to be Leno’s follow-up act for that long. His contract also expires at the end of 2005, and with NBC unable to offer him a promotion to the ”Tonight” desk anytime soon, he may find himself entertaining offers from other networks. Or else, NBC might have to cough up something like Jay money to keep him.