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Mar 8, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Friday, March 8, at 4:30 a.m. (PT); last updated at 3:25 p.m.

CBS bids $31.5 million to keep Letterman

The bidding war for David Letterman, who currently earns a reported $30 million per year at CBS, is now up to $31.5 million.

That’s the amount of CBS’s counter to ABC’s $31 million offer to the veteran late-night host, according to an Associated Press report. Mr. Letterman has been at CBS for most of the past decade and his late-night show originated from the network’s historic Ed Sullivan Theater.

In addition to the $31 million salary offer, ABC also has offered to pay the approximately $40 million annual cost of producing the Letterman show and to move the show to the network’s Times Square studios, according to the AP report, which also cited an account that is to appear in next week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly magazine as the source for the particulars of ABC’s offer. That EW story is “totally inaccurate on all money points,” AP quotes an unidentified ABC source as saying. The ABC Times Square studio is where “Good Morning America” also originates.

ABC’s Ted Koppel, host of “Nightline,” is now being eyed by both CNN and MSNBC, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Mr. Koppel is in play and “Nightline’s” future is in doubt as a result of the Letterman negotiations. ABC has made public its preference for a late-night entertainment show and its willingness to cast aside Mr. Koppel’s well-respected late-night news program as part of its negotiations with Mr. Letterman.

Hearing on ownership rules postponed: The Senate Commerce Committee has postponed plans for a hearing on broadcast ownership issues that it recently said might be held March 20. The panel, headed by Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., instead plans to hold a March 20 hearing on local phone competition. A broadcast ownership hearing is still in the works and will be held at a later date. The senator has expressed concern about a federal appeals court decision last month that further relaxed broadcast ownership restrictions.

CBS’s ‘Survivor: Marquesas’ beats NBC’s comedy hour: The second weekly outing for CBS’s “Survivor: Marquesas” picked up ratings steam Thursday night. The reality series’ adults 18 to 49 score for the full 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. frame (9.4 rating/23 share) represented a 3 percent increase from last week’s premiere (9.1/22), according to Nielsen Media Research data. Overall, “Survivor’s” 23.4 million total viewers held a 4 percent advantage over NBC’s “Friends”/”Leap of Faith” combo (22.4 million).

The opening 8 p.m.-to-8:30 p.m. time slot held close to form, with NBC ‘s “Friends” winning the frame in adults 18 to 49 (12.4/31)–although it was down 6 percent from the previous week (13.2/33)–while beating the first half of “Survivor: Marquesas” (8.3/21) by a 59 percent margin.

However, the second half-hour of “Survivor 4” hit full-gear, moving up 25 percent on its lead-in to a 10.4/25 average, beating NBC’s 8:30 p.m.-to-9 p.m. (ET) second outing of “Leap of Faith” by 17 percent in adults 18 to 49. The island-bound adventure series apparently siphoned all of NBC’s 18 to 49 demos, as the Peacock’s “Leap of Faith” (8.8/21) dropped 29 percent of its “Friends” lead-in. “Faith” also dropped 11 percent from its previous week’s adult 18 to 49 premiere score (9.9/23).

NBC researchers are quick to note that “Leap’s” 71 percent retention out of its 18-49 lead-in from “Friends” is nearly identical to the 72 percent retention CBS scored this past Monday with “Becker” in the time period following “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

Weir leaving KABC for late-night: Los Angeles, KABC-TV’s sardonic sportscaster Bill Weir will leave the much-coveted job, he confirmed after the news had been rumored for weeks in local newspapers. When asked whether he’d consider staying at KABC after his contract is up in September, he told Electronic Media, “Absolutely not.”

He may leave sooner than September because in a month he will shoot the pilot for a late-night talk show for USA Networks, produced by Broadway Video, Lorne Michaels’ company. When Mr. Weir joined KABC 31/2 years ago, he said he was promised an opportunity to do a half-hour late-night show at KABC that hopefully would go national. “When I realized the promises haven’t been kept here I’ve been counting the days for about a year now,” Mr. Weir said. “I’m a pig who wants to be a sheep dog. I’ve always been kind of a frustrated late-night host wannabe trapped in a local newscast and very few people tune in for the drive-by shootings and stick around for the yucks. I’m hoping to find an audience that is tuning in purely for laughs.”

Mr. Weir said he is campaigning to KABC brass to give weekend sports guy Rob Fukuzaki the promotion that he “deserves.” But KABC executives are mum about this entire personnel issue. Mr. Weir said he realizes many would give anything to have his current gig, but when he was told he won’t be doing a local late night show at the station, “it only steeled my resolve to get what it is I came out here for,” Mr. Weir said. “The one thing I was looking for was some creative liberties in late-night because that’s where my heart is. I get no sympathy from people who actually work for a living. There is no heavy lifting and I get to go to Laker games … but you can only cover Lakers highlights so many ways.”

KABC will also have an opening for a weekend male anchor. That’s because Phillip Palmer is being promoted to anchor the two-hour weekday 5 a.m. newscast. For 18 months, David Ono has anchored a grueling shift of both 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. newscasts. Mr. Ono will now anchor the 5 p.m. news as well as daily reporting and special projects.#

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications