ABC Wants CBS Host David Letterman
There's a battle going on behind the scenes in the late-night arena, with ABC trying to lure CBS's late-night host David Letterman, reports The New York Times. If Dave takes the bait, viewers -- and ABC -- can say good-bye to Ted Koppel and the 22-year-old "Nightline," reports the paper, which says that over the past several years the news show's ratings have been declining and its audience aging (which makes it less attractive to advertisers). Letterman's CBS contract, worth an estimated $20 million per year, does not expire for another six months, says The Times, and executives at both ABC and CBS are declining to discuss the situation, which could leave ABC with a late-night gap should Letterman, 54, refuse its offer. The Times did receive confirmation, however, that CBS has been unsuccessful in renewing Letterman's contract during an exclusive negotiation period that wrapped up last month. The paper also notes something that the "Late Show" host often jokes about on the air: his low opinion of CBS, which has been his home since 1993. Behind the scenes, he is said to be unhappy with the promotion he is getting, as well as the poor lead-in he feels he is provided by the network's local newscasts, which have made it difficult for him to overtake the late-night lead of Jay Leno's "Tonight Show" on NBC. Letterman also has a strained relationship with CBS TV president Leslie Moonves, the paper says. ABC has already assured Letterman that it is planning to replace "Nightline" and the program that follows it, "Politically Incorrect," starring Bill Maher, says The Times, which described Letterman as being highly sensitive to the issues surrounding any change in the status of "Nightline." Ted Koppel could not be reached for comment.
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