“The Tonight Show” workers who were laid off last week by NBC because of the Hollywood writers strike will be paid at least through this week, courtesy of host Jay Leno.
Leno agreed to cover the salaries of about 80 non-writing staff members of the top-rated late-night talk show, an NBC executive said Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person wasn’t authorized to comment publicly.
Leno will reassess the situation week by week, depending on what happens with the contract talks, the executive said.
Leno had hoped the negotiations would result in a settlement of the contract dispute between studios and the Writers Guild of America.
With Leno honoring picket lines, “Tonight” has been in reruns since the strike began Nov. 5. The central contract issue is compensation for new-media distribution of work by guild members.
A proposal that writers accept a flat fee for work shown on the Internet was put on the table Thursday by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The guild is seeking a percentage of gross revenues.
Fallout from the strike has been growing. NBC had agreed to pay the “Tonight” staff for two weeks, then extended that for another two weeks before announcing layoffs Friday.
When that happened, Leno put in motion a plan to start paying them, the NBC executive said.
The comedian also gave out his Christmas checks to staff members earlier than usual. Some unidentified workers were quoted in trade publications complaining the gifts were smaller than in years past.
Dick Guttman, Leno’s publicist, said Monday that Leno has routinely given out millions in anniversary celebration bonuses as well as holiday gifts.
“There is a reason he’s viewed as a good guy,” Guttman said.
Last month, staffers with CBS Corp.’s “Late Show with David Letterman” and “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” were promised continued payment at least through December by Letterman, whose production company, Worldwide Pants, owns both shows. Those programs are in reruns as well.
Conan O’Brien had promised to cover the salaries of about 75 non-striking “Late Night” staffers out of his own pocket.
The only late-night show to resume production so far has been NBC’s “Last Call With Carson Daly.”
The NBC programs are owned by Universal Media Studios, which, like the network, is owned by General Electric Co. Msnbc.com is a joint venture between NBC Universal and Microsoft.