Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, NBC to Pay ‘Tonight,’ ‘Late Night’ Staff Partial Wages During Early Weeks of Writers Strike

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NBC, Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers intend to pay staffers of the network’s “Tonight” and “Late Night” shows three weeks’ of wages while the programs are sidelined due to the writers strike, according to two people familiar with the matter.

NBC plans to pay two weeks of salary to staffers while each late-night host will pay a third week out of their own pockets, according to these people. Healthcare for the shows’ employees will be paid through September. Staffers were informed Wednesday morning during production calls, these people say, with Fallon and Meyers taking part personally to discuss the matter with his staff. The hosts typically do not participate in those early-day meetings.

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NBC declined to make executives available for comment.

The moves suggest the network and the hosts would like to return to the air sooner rather than later. In the writers strike that took place in 2007 and 2008, the nation’s late-night programs went dark for two months until David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants production company secured its own deal with the Writers Guild of America — unlike other hosts, Letterman owned his program and its companion, “Late Late Show” — and other hosts and programs followed suit. In some cases, the shows returned to the air without writers, and hosts like Jay Leno had to put together monologues.

Writers play an integral role in TV’s late-night schedule, bashing out multiple jokes, one-liners and sketches each day that play off current events and trending popular culture. The contract between the Writers’ Guild of American an the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents about 350 TV and film production companies, ended on May 1.

Late-night programs across the TV landscape face headier challenges than they did 15 years ago. The shows are grappling with the defection of viewers from linear programing to streaming, with ad sales and ratings in gradual decline. Going off the air for several months could only serve to exacerbate that dynamic, and keeping staffs paid during the early weeks of the work stoppage may help the programs start up again more easily should the WGA and AMPTP come to terms, or if executives at the shows ramp up anew.

As the summer months loom, momentum behind getting back on the air may soften. Kimmel was slated to take this summer off, as he has for the past two years. The networks, realizing that audience levels are lower in June, July and August, may feel less pressure to pay for production of new originals.

Both Fallon and Meyers have spoken in support of their writing staffs in recent days. Steve Higgins, the “Tonight” announcer who is also a senior producer at “Saturday Night Live.” was spotted Tuesday walking on a WGA picket line in New York City.

Other wee-hours programs have also gone dark, including CBS’ “Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher” and “Last Week Tonight” have also stopped producing original programs. “Saturday Night Live” canceled what would have been an original program hosted by Pete Davidson scheduled for this weekend and is slated to air repeats for the foreseeable future.

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