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CBS Reportedly Woos Letterman With Lucrative Offer

December 9, 1992

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ CBS has offered David Letterman at least $14 million a year to move over and promised him the time slot opposite ″The Tonight Show,″ the program that precedes his show on NBC, newspapers reported.

CBS guaranteed Letterman double his NBC salary, or about $14 million, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

The New York Times reported today that Creative Artists Agency, which represents Letterman, told NBC that he had accepted a CBS offer that would pay him about $16 million a year.

The deal would give Letterman ownership of the show and let him produce a second late-night show following his own, the New York newspaper reported.

Under Letterman’s contract, NBC has about four weeks to make a counteroffer.

Calls to NBC weren’t returned Tuesday. Letterman had no comment, said spokesman Stephen Rivers of Creative Artists Agency. CBS had no comment, a spokeswoman in New York said.

″We received an offer (from CBS) on Monday, and the formal negotiating with Letterman has begun,″ NBC spokeswoman Betty Hudson told the Daily News of New York in a story published today. ″We’ll have no further comment until the process is concluded.″

The acerbic Letterman, whose NBC contract expires next summer, became unhappy with the network after Leno was picked over him to succeed Johnny Carson as host of ″The Tonight Show.″

The Los Angeles Times quoted an NBC executive it didn’t identify as saying Letterman wouldn’t be given the 11:30 time slot over Leno. Letterman’s variety-comedy show currently follows Leno’s at 12:30 a.m.

NBC executives said it was unlikely they would match CBS’ money offer, in part because less advertising revenue is available at 12:30 a.m. than at 11:30 p.m. They pointed to recent ratings gains for Leno in insisting he keep the 11:30 p.m. spot, The New York Times reported.

NBC last month agreed to allow Letterman to negotiate with others in exchange for extending his commitment to stay on at NBC from April to late June.

ABC also courted Letterman, but executives there said recently they would not move the news program ″Nightline″ to clear the way for Letterman in the 11:30 p.m. spot he wants.

Snaring Letterman would move CBS from its current late-night crime show programming. The network’s previous foray into the talk show arena, featuring game show host Pat Sajak, failed to stand up to Carson.

The reported offer would make Letterman one of the highest-paid TV performers, the newspapers said. Leno makes about $3 million annually, while syndicated talk show host Arsenio Hall is said to receive $20 million, the Los Angeles Times said.

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