Late Night’s Most Valuable Hosts: Jay Leno & More (Photos)

Jay Leno took a big pay cut this week, but he still wins the ratings race. The Daily Beast crunches the numbers to see which network gets the most value out of its late-night hosts.

As The Tonight Show is forced to cut about two dozen workers from its 200-person staff, Jay Leno has accepted a pay cut of up to $10 million in order to avoid even more layoffs. But even with a pared-down budget, the Tonight Show still handily beats the competition in ratings.

So which late-night hosts are overpaid, and which are delivering the most bang for their network’s bucks? Of course, many factors are at play in establishing a TV personality’s value—some hosts produce more episodes than others, for example, or pull in more desirable target audience. Others demonstrate their worth by helping the network establish a brand identity. But viewership is one bottom line difficult to argue with. Based on published media reports, The Daily Beast compiled the annual salary and average audience for nine top late-night hosts to see which ones are most proving their mettle. See who tops the list!

Matt Sayles / AP Photo

Chelsea Handler

Chelsea Lately

Network: E! Network
Salary$12 million
Average viewers: 718,000
$ per viewer: $16.70

Michael Dwyer / AP Photo

Conan O'Brien


Network: TBS
Salary$12 million
Average viewers: 837,000
$ per viewer: $14.34

John Paul Filo / AP Photo

David Letterman

Late Show with David Letterman

Network: CBS
Salary: $31 million
Average viewers: 3.2 million
$ per viewer: $9.69

Jesse Grant / Getty Images

Craig Ferguson

The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson

Network: CBS
Salary: $12.7 million
Average viewers: 1.5 million 
$ per viewer: $8.47

Charles Sykes / AP Photo

Jon Stewart

The Daily Show

Network: Comedy Central
Salary: $14 million
Average viewers: 1.7 million
$ Per viewer: $8.24

Rene Macura / AP Photo

Jay Leno

The Tonight Show

Network: NBC
Salary: $20 million
Average viewers: 3.7 million
$ Per viewer: $5.41

Cliff Owen / AP Photo

Stephen Colbert

The Colbert Report

Network: Comedy Central
Salary: $4.5 million
Average viewers: 1.2 million
$ per viewer: $ 3.75

Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

Jimmy Kimmel

Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Network: ABC
Salary: $6 million
Average viewers: 1.8 million
$ per viewer: $ 3.33

Marcio Sanchez / AP Photo

Jimmy Fallon

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Network: NBC
Salary: $5 million
Average viewers1.7 million
$ per viewer: $2.94