Leno Back for Big Bucks


NBC confirmed Tuesday that it has extended Jay Leno’s contract to remain host of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno through December 2009, which would take him into the middle of his 18th season hosting the late-night talker.

Leno succeeded Johnny Carson in 1992.

Leno’s current deal wasn’t up until December 2005, but network executives wanted to lock him up early for another five years and Leno agreed.

The late-night host confirmed to The New York Times that he got a nice raise but said he still wasn’t making "Dave money," a reference to the reported $31 million a year that CBS pays David Letterman to host the Late Show.

Letterman defected to CBS after he was passed over to succeed Carson as host of Tonight Show. Under his current deal, Leno earns about $16 million a year to do the Tonight Show, the Times reported.

Other reports had Leno making $25 million annually under the new deal. Neither Leno nor NBC would confirm the money.

Leno continues the undisputed king of late night. For the most recent week, his show averaged 6 million viewers to Letterman's 4.3 million.