Given the changing media marketplace, retrenching isn't unusual. David Letterman, Leno's rival on CBS' "Late Show," accepted a significant pay cut in 2009.
Another key NBC franchise, "Today," is finding itself on shaky ratings ground after 15 years at the top. Since the beginning of July, "Today" has lost each week in the ratings to "Good Morning America," with the exception of the two weeks NBC was in London for the Olympics.
A continued downward slide could make NBC question the deal it gave Lauer earlier this year for a reported increase from $17 million to $25 million annually.
The network might suggest to its host that "the show is not doing the same numbers. Would you take a reduction given that situation?" Ancier speculated.
It's far from unusual, he said, and something he himself has done. As the WB network's onetime programming chief, he took a hard look at the costs of "Seventh Heaven," the network's aging and most expensive series.
"At a certain point, it didn't make sense to keep airing it unless we could get the costs down. We asked the cast to an equal reduction" by percentage, Ancier said. Or, as he put it, "everyone has to take a haircut."
Baldwin's offer to take a 20 percent reduction in his reported $15 million "30 Rock" salary, however, looks to be grounded more in the grand gesture than reality.
Never a ratings success, the Tina Fey comedy did bring NBC the prestige of multiple Emmy Awards and enough viewers to warrant continued production to reach the threshold for lucrative syndication. NBC has declared this abbreviated seventh season to be the show's last.
The ratings explain the decision. Last week's debut was the lowest-ever for "30 Rock" with 3.5 million viewers, a number dwarfed by the 15-plus million that tune to top-rated sitcom "The Big Bang Theory" on CBS.
Even before the Comcast acquisition, "30 Rock" cleverly mocked the company as KableTown, headed by the erratic, glad-handing CEO Hank Hooper (Ken Howard) who holds the fate of network executive Jack Donaghy (Baldwin) in his hands.
If art follows life, Donaghy should brace himself.
AP Business Writer Ryan Nakashima contributed to this report.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at lelber(at)ap.org.
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