TV NotesDeal Would Lead Letterman to a Late-Night Milestone
By Bill Carter, The New York Times
' 'Media Decoder' Blog - Jan. 12, 2012
PASADENA, Calif. – It appears increasingly likely that David Letterman will extend his contract, pushing him past the 30-year run of his idol, Johnny Carson.
According to executives who have been involved in discussions with Mr. Letterman’s production company, Worldwide Pants, a deal to remain on the air until 2014 is imminent. The executives said that CBS had authorized the company to make new agreements with the key members of Mr. Letterman’s staff, his producers and writers.
“That means a final deal with Dave is very close,” said one of the executives involved in the negotiations, who asked not to be identified because the deal is not yet ready to be announced.
What remains unsettled, according to several executives, is the future of the host of CBS show that follows Mr. Letterman, Craig Ferguson. There remains a possibility that he will choose not to continue, the executive involved in the negotiations said.
For many months, people close to Mr. Letterman said he had decided not to retire this year, as had been rumored when he agreed to his last two-year extension in 2010. Instead, Mr. Letterman has given indications for months that he was leaning toward staying on the job, hosting the show called “Late Show With David Letterman.”
Mr. Letterman joined CBS in 1993, after an 11-year career in late-night at NBC. Next year, will be his 20th year at CBS. If he works until the end of the extended deal he will have been on the air for 32 years in late night, two more than Mr. Carson’s record run at NBC’s “Tonight” show.
Leslie Moonves, the CBS chairman, said he would not comment on the status of the late-night talks. One senior CBS executive said only that the network expected a satisfactory conclusion to the late-night situation.
Mr. Letterman’s current deal expires in August, though it contains a window for him to exit in May. (May is the end of the standard television season and more logical exit point than August; Mr. Carson left in May 1992, after 30 years.)
The issue surrounding Mr. Ferguson is whether he will come to terms to continue in the 12:35 a.m. time slot. CBS is expected to seek to keep him, and he does have a clause in his contract that would guarantee him the 11:35 show if Mr. Letterman chose to step down.
But Mr. Ferguson has never taken the position that he must inherit the earlier time period by a certain time, an issue that has clouded previous late-night transitions at NBC.
Instead, the issue of whether Mr. Ferguson will stay at CBS or seek a new direction in his career is expected to come down to whether CBS improves his salary, and perhaps improves the production budget for his “Late Late Show.”http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.co...-milestone/?hp